Travellers will like PlanetEye

PlanetEye Beta A Twitter from Mark Evans , Director of Community at PlanetEye told me that the service has launched in Beta. I clicked over to register and try it out.

When you first arrive on the PlanetEye home page, a Search bar is front and centre on the page. I’m planning a trip to Paris, France, so, I typed in Paris and that took me to the Paris page.

I found that PlanetEye gives me three main ways to find and view information about Paris:

  • a map as the central navigation feature with hotspots that can show photos, hotels, restaurants or attractions. Microsoft is an investor in PlanetEye and the site cleverly and effectively uses Microsoft Virtual Earth for its map-based features.
  • a City Guide view that presents the same information in a text-based page organized under headers such as Top Hotels and Top Attractions .
  • the Local Expert page which presents a blog by a PlanetEye rep featuring reviews of restaurants and tips about things to do when visiting the city. In the case of Paris, the Local Expert is a Canadian, Jolayne Attwood , who has been living in Paris for about a year. Her blog posts review the type of out of the way restaurant that you’d hope that a local resident would tell you about. She also offers pointers to seasonal festivals and exhibitions at galleries. All in all, I enjoyed reading her take on Paris and this feature alone will draw me back to PlanetEye as I plan my trip.

PlanetEye Map Once I’ve found information, PlanetEye also offers a way that I can organize and save it for future use. Once I’ve registered on the site, I can create personalized pages which PlanetEye calls Travel Packs . I can save any type of information I find on the site in a Travel Pack – hotels, photos, reviews, etc. And I can make my Travel Pack private or public. By making it public, I can share my experience with other travellers, adding to the richness and usefulness of the site.

I also can upload my own content and geotag it. Geotagging is easy. PlanetEye lets you simply drag and drop photos you have uploaded onto the location on the map where you took them and then it assigns coordinates to them. You can see a photo that I uploaded and mapped to the location of Universal City Walk in Orlando, Florida. It took me less than three minutes to upload my first photo. Easy and quick.

I’ve created my first two Travel Packs for Paris and also for Orlando, where I’ll be going to attend BlogOrlando . The site helped me to find a hotel I wanted in the area I wanted to stay. When I decided it was time to book the hotel, the site took me to a Travelocity Partner booking page with its standard interface. I’ve begun bookmarking information on my Travel Packs and I’ll be watching to see if other travellers post content over time.PlanetEye Discover Plan Share

I’m going to add PlanetEye to the other travel sites I use regularly: Dopplr to share travel destinations with friends and to connect with them when I’m on the road and Travelocity (a longtime Thornley Fallis client) to book air, hotels and car reservations.

Now, with PlanetEye, I think I’ve found an easy to use way to pull together my videos, photos, favourite places and experiences for specific destinations, to share these with friends and family and to plan trips. Kind of like having flickr, youTube, a guidebook and a travel diary all in one place.

What other people are saying about PlanetEye:

ReadWriteWeb: PlanetEye: A One Stop Travel Destination

Mashable: PlanetEye, Blowing Other Travel Sites Out of the Water?

SensoryMetrics: PlanetEye Versus Travelpod

UberGizmo: PlanetEye: Plan Your Trip Using Virtual Exploration

Fairmont Hotels wins my loyalty through great customer service

I travel more than I’d like to and I stay too way too many nights at hotels. Like every other frequent traveller, I know what it’s like to be stared through, made to feel like an anonymous widget being throughput at the security line, in the airport, on the plane.

But Fairmont Hotels delighted me tonight when, out of the blue, they upgraded me to a suite. Not just any suite, but the Prime Minister’s Suite. Now they’ve got a customer for life.

I stay at Fairmont Hotels because they were once a Canadian chain that traced its lineage back to CP Hotels. And they have some of the most unique properties in North America. All of the great old railroad hotels in Canada. The Chateau Frontenac . Banff Springs . Lake Louise . A few years ago, CP Hotels merged with Fairmont and picked up properties like the Copley Plaza in Boston and the Fairmont San Francisco . Yes, they aren’t the trendy properties that people flock to for something new. But they have something special. Every one of these hotels has character.

And Fairmont has worked hard to achieve a level of customer service that matches the architecture of their hotels. For the past two days, I was at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. And from the time I checked in through every meal to check out, I had the feeling that people actually cared about whether I was happy at their hotel. The Waterfront’s employees make it a special place by acting special. They really seem to like working at the Fairmont and they project a sense of pride in the hotel and the job they do there. Yes, it’s intangible. But I truly feel it.

So, that brings me to tonight. I flew from Vancouver to Toronto. And because I had a morning meeting, I could only take a mid day flight. All the direct flights were full. So, I had to route through Calgary. That means 8 hours with a connection. A long day after a meeting and an arrival after 10PM in Toronto.

(The fact that the first news I heard when I stepped into a taxi was that my hometown Ottawa Senators had just completed one of the greatest NHL chokes of all time by being eliminated in four straight games from the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Pittsburgh only added to my sense that this was one of those days…)

But when I pulled myself out of the taxi and went to the registration desk of the Fairmont Royal York my day changed completely.

First of all, Fabio Gamberdella, who frequently checks me in when I arrive at the hotel (Fairmont, you’ve got a great employee in Fabio) told me that my room has been upgraded from the standard room I’d reserved. That’s nice. (And it’s even nicer that Fabio addresses me by name and actually remembers me.)

But when I arrived at my room, I discover that I haven’t just been upgraded to a nicer room. I’ve been upgraded to the Prime Minister Suite. Let me say that again. The Prime Minister Suite. Nice. More than nice. Spectacular.

Fairmont didn’t need to do this. I was staying in one of the lowest priced rooms in the hotel on my corporate rate. So, I’m not exactly a high roller.

Fairmont could have simply left the room empty tonight and put me in the type of room I’d reserved. But they didn’t. And that was very, very smart of them.

Many other businesses would simply decide that because the higher value unit had not rented, they would simply leave it empty and deliver to the customer exactly what he had paid for.

But Fairmont has a database. And they know that I stay with them over 90 nights a year. And tonight Fairmont made me feel special. And that’s worth a lot. It’s definitely earned my loyalty for some time to come.

Now, the cynic would say that Fairmont should do a lot more for a frequent traveller who spends more than one in four nights every year at their hotels. And they do. Of course, I’m a member of their President’s Club frequent frequent guest program. And I receive all the privileges and perks that their marketing material promises.

But what was so special about tonight was that the upgrade was unasked for. Unexpected. And announced to me by Fabio, an employee who treated me like someone he recognizes.

Why aren’t more businesses smart like this in the way they treat their best customers?

And so that you know what I’m talking about, here’s a video that conveys how I feel about Fairmont tonight.