Monday, December 10, 2007

Slot Machines With Joysticks

In an attempt to attract younger players, the New York Times reports the venerable slot machine is undergoing a generational shift.

“We’re talking about a different vernacular, a whole different machine,” Whipsaw’s president, Dan Harden, said. His ultimate challenge, Mr. Harden said, is to redesign the machines that power the gambling industry to appeal not just to the “Cadillac generation” but to the
“ BMW generation” as well.

What is very interesting is the admission by industry experts that perhaps their current business model of attracting to a younger demographic might not be best for their bottom line.

For example, “Younger players come to town to party,” said George Maloof Jr., president of the Palms Casino Resort, a popular Las Vegas hangout for people under 40. “They drink, they go to nightclubs, they go to the after-hours clubs, they check out the pool for the scene there. Gambling in general is not high on their agenda.”

The problem is however "gambling, particularly playing the slots, still pays the bills." What is even worse is the fact that the younger gambler trend toward the less profitable table games, not the higher profit slot machines.

We have previously written about the lack of middle of the road medium price casinos on the strip. All the newer high end casinos, just built, or are being built, are geared toward this unprofitable demographic. Casinos that attract the primary slot machine player that drives the casino profits are being ignored.

“With all the growth going on, every casino has to bring in new players or we’ll see a drop in everyone’s market share,” said Frank Legato, managing editor of Global Gaming Business, a trade journal. “It’s critical to keep bringing new players into casinos rather than recycle those who are already there.”

Most of the $1 billion-plus that the roughly one million slot machines in the United States take in on a typical day is paid to winners. But about 5 to 10 percent, depending on the casino and whether it is a penny, nickel, quarter or dollar machine, stays with the casino.

“The slot makers need to figure out how to develop these younger players,” Mr. Maloof said. “We need it for the bottom line.”

It seems that the push toward the "higher end night clubbing partying demographic" may prove to be just as unprofitable as the previous Las Vegas trend toward attracting the "family market."

link to Planet Travel's Las Vegas Connection with independent reviews of more than 50 Las Vegas hotels

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Planet Travel's Las Vegas Connection Beta Up and Running

Looking for the best deal to Las Vegas...You found the right web site. Our new and updated Las Vegas Connection web site is up and running. Take a look. It is part of our major upgrades to all our Planet Travel web sites. The internet travel business is huge. We are just a little fish in a very giant pond. We are proud of the time and effort our team put into making this little fish a great source to plan your next Las Vegas vacation. Watch for more upgrades in the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Govt. Overcharges for New US Passports

From the Associated Press

"Americans have been quietly gouged since 2002. The report they initiated showed the costs incurred by the State Department and the U.S. Postal Service, for accepting passport applications, were considerably less than the fee charged."

"It's the combination of excessive fees plus the long wait that's most galling to passengers," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association. "It's just another way the federal government has ill-served passengers. Airline passengers are taxed and fee'd more than any other group. To see that we're being gouged on top of that is most irritating."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Returns for Travel Agents

From the New York Times

(Click the above link to read the entire article)

Gene Luntz, an artist's representative in Manhattan who flies six to eight times a year for work, is one of the converts.

After years of booking his travel online, through Web sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and, he has gone back to using a travel agent.

Yes, they still exist, those people who until the mid-1990s booked about 75 percent of airline tickets and had as much power as God but then seemed at risk of extinction. In fact, many travel agents -- or travel specialists, as they are now known -- say they have seen an increase in business in the last year or so.

One big reason, they say, is that travelers say they do not have the time or energy to scour the Internet for the best deals. And they crave a personal touch that a disembodied voice in a call center cannot provide. Many of the returning customers offer variations of the tale Mr. Luntz, 60, told.

About two years ago, he said, he bought plane tickets on The day before he was to leave, he caught a vicious cold. He spent hours on the phone, he said, trying to find someone to help him change his flight. But he was unsuccessful and ended up throwing the tickets away. ''Going to the Internet is an absolute nightmare,'' Mr. Luntz said.

That is when he called his former travel agent at the Tzell Travel Group in Manhattan. ''She's available for phone calls. She returns calls,'' he said. ''They take really good care of me, despite the fact that I'm not General Motors. The most amazing thing is that for the price of a Starbucks coffee for my girlfriend and me, I have someone on the other end that can help me, as opposed to a Web site that can give me no response.''

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Step aside New Coke....Our prediction is that rebranding Marshall Fields as Macys will be soon be studied as one the greatest corporate blunders yet

What can you say? Here we are a year later after Macy's re-branded hundreds of regional department stores, including Chicago's beloved Marshall Fields, and the fields fans protest web site is still going strong.

The numbers are rather remarkable:

"Since last fall, Field's Fans have so far distributed over 66,000 leaflets on State Street, at civic events and elsewhere reminding Chicagoans that Field's can indeed come back as the result of a sustained customer boycott of Macy's. Over 63,000 lapel stickers and pin-on buttons that say "Keep It Marshall Field's," "Marshall Field's Forever, " and "I Want My Marshall Field's" have been distributed to Field's Fans worldwide. Thousands of bumper stickers that say "Field's Is Chicago/Boycott Macy's" have also been distributed. These activities have received international media attention, with coverage by Reuters, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Post, CBS Sunday Morning, WGN, National Public Radio, Chicago Public Radio, the local and national television news reports of ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, and more."

Their blog is really a great read. Macy's certainly underestimated the impact of eliminating the Marshall Fields name. And it now appears the movement has moved nation wide with particular disdain for the newly branded Macy stores found in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Florida, and Boston. Just read the comments from an ever growing list of nation-wide postings who are not afraid to vent their frustrations with the changes made to their department stores by Macys.

Our prediction is that this Christmas will be the final nail in the coffin for the re-branded Macy stores, especially in Chicago. The CEO will finally run out of seems to be the primary reason, while competitors post sales blame for falling sales and Wall Street will finally demand a change. Macy's share price has dropped more than 20% this year. Changes to the better are in the future. Any department store that kindles this kind of affection deserves to be resurrected.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cruising with a purpose...a great way to raise funds for your non profit organization

Charity fund raising programs with Planet Travel offer donors so much more than a candy bar or candles from a catalogue. Capable of generating a significant amount of money for your non-profit organization, charity, church or school, Planet Travel Cruising with a purpose is an innovative approach to getting people to support your organization financially by giving them something very special in return - a truly unbeatable deal on a cruise vacation and memories to last a lifetime.

Charity Fund Raising Cruises - How it Works

Through Planet Travel, in cooperation with several major cruise lines in the industry, organizations can plan the best charity fund raising event ever seen in their community. And the best part is, Planet Travel does all the work for you. We'll negotiate the deal with the cruise lines, help figure out the best scenario for your group financially and organize all of the details. All you have to do is decide which one of the gorgeous ships you wish to board and which amazing destinations you wish to call upon.

Our mission is to provide top quality cruises for non-profit entities and to give those organizations an opportunity to raise funds for worthy causes world-wide and to also empower them to create enriching memories of fun and fellowship for their members.

Charity Fund Raising Cruises - Group Deals

The cruises offered through Planet Travel charity fund raising are in fact the best deals around because of the savings you receive from booking with the group. A portion of that cost is set aside for your group and some cruise lines will actually match your total donations allowing you to make twice what you would raise in other programs. For example, if your group booked an 8-day Caribbean cruise and your donation portion per passenger was set at $35, Carnival Cruise Line would match that $35 and virtually double your funds.

Charity Fund Raising Cruises - Event-full or Laid-back

Make what you want out of this charity fund raising opportunity. Plan events for every night onboard, just one evening of events or more of a freestyle, "you're on your own" cruise that is free of obligation. Whatever you decide, people will enjoy the savings they receive and will most likely remember the experience forever. Perhaps, they might even rally to do it again the following year!

Charity Fund Raising Cruises - Destinations

Your charity fund raising group will choose from a variety of world-wide destinations including the coral reefs and pristine beaches of the Grand Cayman, or the ancient Mayan ruins of Cozumel or the inspiring wildlife in Alaska. And the shore excursions available on cruises are equally thrilling with everything from scuba and snorkeling to sport fishing or river rafting. Our Cruise Specialists are knowledgeable and extremely helpful in choosing destinations for your organization. You can also customize private shore excursions as well.

Charity Fund Raising Cruises - More Information

The best part about this avenue of charity fund raising is that our Group Cruise Specialists will do all the work for you, handling deposits, reservations, payments and travel documents. Please give us a call for more information on this innovative alternative or see our website for more information about Cruising with a purpose.

Monday, October 15, 2007

JAMAICA | Indulging in an all-inclusive resort on Caribbean island makes for an enjoyable vacation

A positive review of the Grand Lido Negril Resort from the Chicago Sun Times. Enjoy Extreme Savings of up to 65% at Grand Lido Resorts & Spas at our travel insiders all inclusive wed site for travel up to December 20.

link to Planet Travel's All Inclusive Vacations web site

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our free gambling guide....another reason to book your next Las Vegas vacation with Planet Travel

If you are headed to Las Vegas you may be interested in testing your luck while you are there. Clients who book their vacations with Planet Travel will receive a free copy of our "Insider's Guide to Gambling in Las Vegas...Evening the Odds with the Casino."

It is a $19.95 value and it is yours free.

Topics include:

Higher denomination machines have a higher payback. You should therefore play higher denomination machines. Wrong. We will explain why downgrading is one of the best moves you can make in a casino.

What is the best system to beat the slots?

Should you play progressive slot machines?

Why playing craps may be your best bet at the casinos.

Why we gamble. We really are programmed to be gamblers.

Why you should search out high frequency machines.

Our own reports about gambling and what we found that worked and what didn't.

And more.

We searched for the best advice we could find about today's high tech gambling world and condensed it in this free report. No hype. No crazy systems. Just good information.

It is yours free when you book your next Las Vegas Vacation with Planet Travel.

link to Planet Travel's Las Vegas connection

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Update On Passport Requirements

By many accounts, a meltdown in processing that held up passports for thousands of Americans earlier this year has eased. But new delays might be on the horizon. Here is an update from the Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Travel agents staging a comeback

WHEN SHE WAS PLANNING her birthday trip to New York City, Caroline Koons Forrest started where most of us do: online. She checked everything from to the Four Seasons' site. No luck. Everything was booked solid, outrageously priced or completely unfamiliar to her (the Days Hotel, anyone?). So the West Palm Beach architectural designer did something she hadn't done in ages: switched off her computer and called a local travel agent. Minutes later Stacy Small of Elite Travel International phoned back with a room at her first-choice hotel, the Four Seasons, at half the $1,600 price tag for a suite Forrest had spotted on the web. The icing on the cake? An actual birthday cake, which awaited Forrest and her husband when they entered their room.

After more than a decade of decline, the humble travel agent is staging a comeback. Frustrated with the recent rash of sold-out hotels and airline seats, travelers are discovering that for all the hype, web sites like, Orbitz and Travelocity are losing some of their edge, especially when it comes to high-end locations. And customer displeasure is starting to show; growth in the once red-hot online travel business is cooling, up 20% last year after a 28% increase in 2004. Enter the travel agent, the most savvy of whom can use longtime connections to secure that "sold out" room or coveted aisle seat. Written off as dinosaurs not so long ago, agents are seeing a welcome bump in business, with the 2006 average weekly sales per agent location up 15% over the year before. High-end travel is turning up as well, with members of Virtuoso, a consortium of more than 300 luxury agencies, racking up $4.2 billion in sales last year, an 11% jump over 2005.

Read more by clicking the above link from Smart

Monday, July 09, 2007

The air travel nightmare continues

The media has a certain fascination with the airline industry.

The press has not been good this summer.

Here is a link to the Denver Post detailing the misery of air travel

The Philadelphia Inquirer has some tips on how to fly and survive this summer.

The Chicago Tribune has a front page article about flying the angry skies.

And the Chicago Tribune companion article about 2007 being the worst year ever for air travelers.

We recently flew Southwest to Las Vegas. Somehow despite the problems of other airlines, our Southwest flights arrived on time, were 90% filled, the planes were clean, the seats were not broken, the rows have more room than other airlines, and Southwest managed to serve everyone a drink at no charge and a small box of snacks. Which brings me to the Southwest paradox. How did this airline, the greyhound of the air, become the market leader? They steadfastly avoid assigning seats causing passengers to line up hours before the flight leaves to get a "good seat." Although there are rumors of a change in boarding policies. They set the prices in any market they serve. Their recent fare increase was matched immediately by their competitors and their soon to announced sale fares will be matched as well. Southwest airlines employees are genuinely friendly and seem to like their jobs.

And Southwest airlines is profitable, but that profitability is being threatened by higher fuel costs and increased competition.

Hopefully the things that make flying Southwest more attractive today, won't disappear as a result of the squeezed profitability and increased competition.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Our customer service providers recognize the additional stress and tension of traveling today,"

USA Today reports that flight attendants are feeling the wrath of flyers. Flying today is a very unpleasant experience and apparently some are fighting back...literally.

Say goodbye to the New Frontier

It looks like another notch in the casino death watch bed post. The closing and demolition of the New Frontier is imminent. Another bit of Las Vegas history passes away. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, "the New Frontier launched the Las Vegas career of Elvis Presley, who played his first-ever show at the casino on April 23, 1956. The Frontier was the site of the final performance of Diana Ross and The Supremes on Jan. 14, 1970."

Although we never stayed at the New Frontier, we had an occasion to gamble there a few times and found it to be ratty and rather unpleasant all around. We are not shedding alot of tears for the New Frontier. R.I.P.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Feds to suspend new border rules to ease passport crunch

Apparently the massive backlog in passport applications is the reason the State Department and other agencies have agreed to lift the passport requirements for United States citizens to travel to Canada and Mexico. "The whole system is ready to collapse" according to the above linked article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Springfield to Las Vegas Air Service

As announced in today's State Journal on the above link to read the story....even better read the comments concerning the flight times and time changes for a few yuks...Allegiant Air announced new non stop air service from Springfield to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is our client's favorite destination. Each year we send hundreds of clients to Las Vegas. Springfield's lack of decent air service to Las Vegas has always been somewhat of a problem. If you really wanted to save money, you really had to drive to St. Louis or perhaps Peoria to meet your goal. If you wanted to fly to Las Vegas from Springfield, be prepared for a long flight...sometimes as long as nine hours because of the connection....and paying $200.00 more than the going rate in St Louis.

No longer is this a problem.

Based on clients' initial reaction, the just announced flights will really be a winner.

Kudos to the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport folks.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What to do?

Back safe and sound from Italy, our WUIS group arrived Wednesday evening in Springfield exhausted and safe. And not without some concern that Tuesday's one day labor strike by Alitalia airlines flight attendants might spill over to the next day when our flight was scheduled to depart. Our concerns were without merit, although every seat in our airplane was filled. We visited with some of the flight attendants and they told us about their concern for their own jobs since the economic future of the airline is not very good.

We have posted more pictures from our trip on our flickr site.

Here is a link to our flickr site

Italy is intensive living and Rome maximizes it. We managed to pack in as much as we could in our three day stay in Rome. Our group members scattered throughout the city exploring the sites. Some even managed to attend an opera concert the night before we left.

As the group members departed for home from the WUIS studios Wednesday evening, I watched them exchanged hugs and telephone numbers. A very good sign. As an exhausted as she was, I had one group member ask me for she left for home, "Where are we going to next?"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Welcome from Italy

After an incredibly exhausting two days, our WUIS group has settled in to our new temporary home Florence. We traveled from Springfield to Chicago's O'hare , first flying to Milan and then to Rome. From Rome we traveled on another bus to Florence. Very much a long day and members were tired, taking advantage of the bus trip to catch a nap.

Last night we walked to our restaurant justs blocks from the Uffizi . For dinner we shared family style antipasto, several kinds of pasta to sample, steak and italian sausage and a lemon torte for desert.

Our guide led us through the various museums and a walk through Florence.

Tonight, after a surprise cocktail party hosted by the Planet Travel folks, we are off to the May Music Festival concert.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Best Time to Buy Cheap Airfare & Airline Tickets

When is the Best Time to Buy Cheap Airfares?

This article from the web site sheds some light on the murky world of airline fares.

And more importantly they share 7 "cheap airfares and airline ticket insider tips."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

WUIS Group Set To Depart May 16, 2007

Bags are getting packed right now, as our group of 32 WUIS listeners are preparing for a trip to Florence and Rome, Italy May 16-23, 2007. You will be able to view photos at the Planet Travel flickr site and read posts from the travelers at our travel insider blog during the trip.

Here is a link to our flickr site

More to follow.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Flying in and out of the USA? You now need a passport.

Americans flying to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean are now subject to a new rule going into effect Tuesday, January 23, 2007 requiring them to show a passport to get back into the country.

Click above for the link to the Department of State outlining the new requirements.

Here is the link to the Passport Services Office with information on how to obtain, replace or change a passport.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Seven Amazing Travel Secrets

Donna Rosato from CNN Money and Money magazine claims;

"When I travel, I almost always get an aisle seat in the front of the plane. I never have a problem upgrading to a nicer room at hotels. And I often drive away from the rental-car lot in something a lot snazzier than the tiny hatchback I paid for online.

How do I do it? It's not what you think.

Yes, I've covered the travel industry for more than a decade, and I've interviewed hundreds of road warriors (and, years ago, was one myself), but I'm not a big frequent flier, and I don't ask my contacts in the travel world for favors. It's just that I've learned how to game the system. "

Read more as she shares some of her secrets.