AN ESCORT THROUGH THE AIRPORT A new tool, Solve, describes itself as an airport concierge service. Its goal is to save travelers time and alleviate confusion by providing someone to meet them at their arrival gate, expedite the immigration and Customs process, and then escort them to whatever car or shuttle is to take them to their hotel or home rental. The company sees itself as particularly useful for business travelers and young and elderly travelers. Solve is available in more than 480 airports globally, and the company says most of its employees speak both English and the local language. The cost starts around $225 a leg for two people.
BOOK A HOTEL OR A CAR WITH YOUR VOICE If you’ve always wanted to be able to say “Book me a hotel room in Las Vegas” and suddenly find yourself with a reservation, you’re in luck. Kayak just announced that users can now book hotel rooms with voice commands through Amazon’s Alexa smart home devices. (Previously, you could search for hotels, flights and rental cars by speaking, but you couldn’t book them that way.) Kayak performs the search for rooms while the booking is done through its sister brands, Booking.com and Priceline.com. This, as one might imagine, is not necessarily for obsessives who want to look at and compare dozens of hotel reviews, photos and lists of amenities. Early reviews suggest voice booking is best for the traveler who is looking to reserve a room at a familiar hotel, such as one he or she regularly stays in for business.
Kayak is not the only travel company wading into voice-only booking. Next month, Avis will introduce voice-powered car reservation capability with Alexa, allowing users to issue commands such as “I need a car at La Guardia Airport at 9 a.m. this Friday.” Customers will be able to make car rental reservations, review current or past reservations, and request electronic receipts of their last rental. As for booking your next flight, you still have to do that the old-fashioned way: online.
UNLOCK YOUR HOTEL ROOM WITH A SMARTPHONE A few years ago, digital room keys were a novelty. Today, brands like Marriott and Hilton have made them available through their mobile apps at hundreds of hotels and are planning to make them even more widely available. Hilton, which offers digital keys at hotels throughout the United States and Canada, is now introducing them in Britain. This year Marriott is rolling out its mobile key to more than 500 hotels globally. The company has also expanded the capabilities of its mobile check-in/checkout feature. For the first time, users can request room upgrades and find out if they have been approved before they arrive. Additionally, they can skip the line at the front desk and request late checkout, which is guaranteed for Gold and Platinum Elite loyalty program members.
WHIZ THROUGH THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE This summer, France began operating two new high-speed trains. Now you can get from Paris to Bordeaux in about two hours, and from Paris to Rennes in less than an hour and a half. Every day, some 35,000 high-speed seats will be offered between Paris and Bordeaux and 30,000 high-speed seats between Paris and Rennes. Look for interiors by the French designer Christian Lacroix on the Rennes route. For those who care about staying connected, some trains to Brittany will begin offering Wi-Fi later this year. The Bordeaux route trains will offer internet access.