VIVE LA LUXURY!

Booking a shopping holiday but not sure where the best value is to buy those luxury goods? Look no further than the home of that famous bike race, cheese, champagne and Louis Vuitton.

France is the most popular international travel destination for tax-free shopping, followed by Singapore, Germany, England and Italy.

The Chinese millionaire accounts for the largest proportion of consumption spent on tax-free shopping across the globe, making up about a quarter of Chinese global consumption.

In Singapore Chinese tourists spend an average of $10,481 on luxury watches and jewelry. And a single Chinese tourist can buy up to 20 branded bags at one shop based on a shopping list of requests from people back home.

Russian & Chinese tourists account for almost 40% of global tax-free spend, followed by Japanese and Indonesians.

And remember it can be worth putting in that tax form at the airport, saving you up to 19% of your purchases which can add up to a lot when you are buying a Louis Vuitton luggage set!

PACKING A PUNCH

I am getting ready to pack for a work trip and trying to decide which suitcase to take. I have been through many a luggage set in my time – some a lot better than others. Which got me to thinking… does money buy you happiness (and security, longevity and style) when it comes to suitcases? (and for the record, yes I think it does!)

Here are the key things to look for when next making a luggage purchase.

1. Quality — we know baggage handlers don’t love your luggage as much as you do, so know it will take beating!
2. Transportability — a good set of wheels people, and a handle that won’t break
3. Airline Limits —  Don’t get something so heavy that it breaks all weight rules, and that’s before you have packed
4. Zippers – Make sure it’s a YKK made one or be ready for it not to last

Hard-sided or soft? A very personal choice, but hard-sided is certainly convincing more and more non-believers that it is better. Samsonite Winfield Expandable Spinner is one of the best (and lightest) but if you have the cash you can’t go past Rimowa cases. Tumi is as popular as ever, and they seem to excel at carry on bags. Victorinox are study (especially their soft bags) but they won’t be the lightest bag on the market.

The latest fads
Road Warrior - the suitcase collapses for easy storage to half its size. Perfect if you spend more time at home, than on the road. http://www.roadwarriorluggage.com
Samsonite Compressor – zip free expander suitcase that customs fits to the amount you fit (and stops your clothes from moving about once packed) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-l6oOT4LiI

Oh and losing your luggage just got a whole lot more expensive if you own one of these suitcases. Henk is one of the most expensive brands on the market with prices around $30,000 a piece. It has 500 separate parts, 22 of which move, and is made from Italian burl, black ebony, horse hair, aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, magnesium, parachute fabric and fine leathers. And the beauty is even when it’s fully packed it will only feel like you’re wheeling 25 grams. http://www.henk.com

So you may want to think twice before you check that in!

GET A ROOM!

I am always surprised how hard it can be to book a hotel room when they constantly seem to be full… clearly I am in the wrong industry. Especially as there are an estimated 13.4 million of them in the world (Source STR Global Feb 2102)

So where are all these rooms?

North America accounts for 5.6 million hotel rooms – 41% of total rooms.
Europe comes in second place with 4 million rooms, or 29.7% of total rooms,
Asia in third place (but gaining fast) with 2.9 million or 21.6% of rooms

North America also ranks No. 1 when it comes to the percentage of hotel rooms (66%) marketed under well-known chain names such as Hilton, Marriott, Westin, and Hyatt.

But the cities that will set you back the most for staying a night (based on average nightly rate) are -

1. Moscow $422
2. Geneva $375
3. Zurich $340
4. Paris $321
5. Stockholm $310
6. Washington DC $306
7. Sydney $304
8. Istanbul $303
9. Oslo $298
10. New York $265

STUCK IN A JAM

I’m lucky, my commute to the office is easy. Either a 10 minute drive, or I have the option of catching the train which would cost me $1 and get me there in about the same amount of time (hey I am lazy, I choose driving!)

But some people don’t have that luxury and getting to work can be a right royal pain in the….

It seems it’s particularly so in New Delhi and Beijing where 95% of commuters say that roadway traffic on their commute has negatively affected their health.

The Commuter Pain Survey (by IBM) is based on 10 factors including commuting time, time stuck in traffic, and how traffic affects work – and the following countries come out the worse.
1. Mexico City
2. Shenzhen
3. Beijing
4. Nairobi
5. Johannesburg
6. Bangalore
7. New Delhi
8. Moscow

But if you live in Alaska, that won’t be a problem as more people walk to work there than any other U.S. state. And for the other states in the US, you can work out your commute time on the following site -http://www.trulia.com/local#commute

What about public transport I hear you say?

The cheapest public transport is –

Caracas, Venezuela (Metro, Bus=$0.12 – $0.28)
Cairo, Egypt (Metro=$0.17)
Delhi, India (Metro=$0.18 – $0.66)
La Paz, Bolivia (Bus=$0.19 – $0.50)

And the most expensive commute on public transport -

London, England (tube $6.43)
Oslo, Norway (tram, bus, metro, ferry $4.34)
Copenhagen, Denmark (metro, bus $4.20)
Zurich, Switzerland (bus, tram, train $4.08)

Based on an ‘average’ commute – driving your car to work can cost you up to 5 times more a week compared to taking public transport. But, it will also save you on average 6 hours a week in travel time… proving that time really is money!

CUSTOMS CLEARANCE

Pet hate… being in a line ready to go through security at the airport and someone in front has “forgotten” to empty their pockets or throw a bottle of water away. Seriously what are these people thinking (clearly not much), as they have just had on average 13 to 15 minutes to get organised. That is the time it is taking to clear security at most airports these days.

Checking In
59% of people check-in through the airline’s main counter, which takes an average of 19 minutes
18% use a self-check-in kiosk, which averages 8 minutes
10% check-in at curbside, which averages 13 minutes
5% of passengers obtain their boarding pass through the Internet

Security
The average wait time at large airports is 16 minutes, 15 minutes at medium airports and 13 minutes at small airports

Airports
US immigration officials were given the unwanted tag of being the rudest, followed by India and Russia. I agree with that ranking. On my most recent to trip to India there was a line at immigration due to the fact that every immigration officer had decided to have their dinner at the same time so there was no one working!!

Travelers wanting the shortest queuing times should head for Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Changi in Singapore or Frankfurt

Bangkok, Amsterdam and Rome are considered to have the least-thorough security. They were also seen as having the longest wait time for collecting baggage and were considered the most likely to damage luggage.

Heathrow has been voted the worst international airport for passport queues and baggage problems. New York’s JFK and Los Angeles International airports were ranked second and third worst.

TACKY OR TRENDY?

I was travelling this week and was bored sitting in a very average airline lounge. Instead I wondered around aimlessly looking for something to buy in one of the airport shops (which are fast becoming the same shop repeated every 20 metres). Unfortunately I wasn’t in Hong Kong airport with Jimmy Choo at my beckon call, so I had to settle on trying to buy a souvenir for my 3 year old daughter.

Which got me to thinking… what are some of the best souvenirs you can buy at an airport? Here is a list of some of the more interesting ones and you can be the judge if they are tacky or trendy!

Shanghai Pudong Airport
PANDA HAT – a hat and attached mittens (also available a ton of panda-clad merchandise – bags, beer coolers and toys).

Tokyo Narita Airport
HELLO KITTY or ORIGAMI – What can I say, Japan is all things Hello Kitty! A nice alternative is a gift from the Origami museum located in the airport

Cairns Airport, Australia
CANE TOAD COIN PURSE – The perfect gift for someone who has everything.

Stockholm Arlanda Airport
REINDEER PELT – Yes you read correctly. Maybe stick to buying perfume here!

London Heathrow Airport
RUBBER DUCK – Love the Harrods one (my favourite). Of course the usual double decker bus money boxes are available too.
I am yet to see any inspiring souvenirs from the upcoming 2012 Olympics, so would be keen to hear from anyone who has found one.

Los Angeles – LAX
OSCAR – When in LA… how can you resist a fake Oscar statue (quite easily!)

Any USA Airport
CAP/T-SHIRT – Always a great place to buy the local basketball, hockey, football, baseball supporter gear

Singapore Airport
ORCHIDS – Alive and packaged ready to travel. Although check if you are allowed to bring them to your destination.

What did I buy? Pink panda slippers… perfect for a 3 year old!

CARD TRICKS

I am old school and love receiving a business card that is completely out of the box and wows me. Business cards are one thing that you can afford to be creative on as after all, they should leave a lasting impression. And if you receive one that you think is great you are less likely to throw it away as soon as you get back to your desk.

Visiting cards first appeared around the 15th century in China and were used as a means for aristocrats to announce their arrival to whomever they were visiting. This tradition then moved on to nobles in France and England and the business card was born!

Things to consider if you are on the market for new business cards:

Materials and Effects – Most are printed on card stock, but you may want to consider a coating, a embellishment, embossing, or specialized material (eg wood)

Size and Shape – Be creative! They can be any size and not just rectangle, think round edges, cut out shapes…

Printing Methods – Digital is the most popular, Letterpress will give you better quality and Engraved will give you another option.

Colour & Style - There are unlimited options with some imagination. Four colour process is standard and recommended. Try and keep a similar look to your website and let the card reflect what it is you actually do.

But if you are opposed to business cards you may like to try out some new alternatives.

LinkedIn has the CardMunch app that digitizes an analog card. It captures the image of a business card, recognizes it and then saves it on your phone as a contact. It also integrates that person’s information from his or her profile on LinkedIn.

You can also create a digital card using Cardcloud that can be delivered by email.

But one important tip – Try to learn the basics of foreign customs regarding presenting yourself and the exchange of business cards before your next overseas work trip, otherwise it could be over before you have even started your meeting!