It may seem strange to say I go to Africa to meet Americans, but it is one of the good things that happen when I attend Africa’s Travel Indaba, as I did in Durban, South Africa, May 3-5.
One of the many benefits of attending Indaba is being able to meet travel agents from the US who have been hosted by South African Tourism. Throughout the year, the tourism board works the trade show circuit in the US and singles out travel agents who are ripe for opening up business in Africa. Then, every year when Indaba rolls around in May, SAT brings a select few of them to South Africa. On one trip, SAT exposes them to the broad spectrum of the African travel industry at the one-stop trade show of Indaba, and then takes them around to give them a taste of South Africa.
I have gotten a window into the blossoming market based on African Americans traveling to Africa from meeting many travel agents hosted at Indaba Read the rest of this entry »
From Wednesday to Monday I was in the northern, southern, eastern, and western hemispheres.
It’s nothing to brag about. There was nothing brilliant about it. On the contrary, it could be the worst-planned travel itinerary ever. The only accomplishment is that I survived it. But I did experience it, and that’s worth talking about. It was extraordinary.
I didn’t intentionally plan such a marathon. It only happened because there were two travel events that I absolutely could not miss. They happened to be very close together on the calendar, and very far apart on the globe.
I had already booked my flights to the Arctic Circle when it came time to book flights for the trip to Durban, South Africa Read the rest of this entry »
I had been eagerly looking forward to interviewing Robert Drumm, CEO of Alexander + Roberts, to hear his views on current events from his perspective as head of the company that has done more than any other to promote American tourism to Russia since the 1950s.
As explained elsewhere, Alexander + Roberts, under its previous name General Tours, was the first American tour operator to offer tours into Soviet Russia in the 1950s. It began in the early years of the Cold War, while there was a Red Scare blazing in the United States. Popular figures at the time were being blacklisted, prevented from earning a living, for even the suspicion of sympathies with the Communist Party at any time in their lives. It took a lot of courage for Alex Harris, the founder of General Tours, to launch tours to Russia in that climate.
Bob Drumm started working with Alex Harris in the ‘80s, and in the 1990s Harris passed the baton to him to head General Tours. Drumm continues to head the company today Read the rest of this entry »
It doesn’t feel right to talk about business as usual when we are confronted daily with the destruction of lives and monuments of civilization in Ukraine. It seems unseemly to gush about good news while such a horror is ongoing among people who look like they may have been just like you and me a month ago.
Nevertheless, there is some good news, and it’s important to recognize it, and to feel gratitude, remembering that “there but for the grace of God go I.” Read the rest of this entry »
Keeping a constant, anxious watch on the heartbreaking news pouring out of Ukraine, I have come across some demoralizing reports that say most Russians support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
On March 6 the Guardian reported that “Despite the international condemnation and sanctions that have met the military attack, Putin’s approval ratings have jumped in Russia since the invasion, according to Moscow-based pollsters. Putin’s rating rose six percentage points to 70 percent in the week to 27 February, according to the state pollster VTsIOM. The pollster FOM, which conducts research for the Kremlin, said Putin’s rating had risen seven percentage points to 71 percent in the same week.”
According to a March 8 article in the Washington Post, “58 percent of Russians support the invasion of Ukraine, and 23 percent oppose it, a new poll shows.”
One article showed a picture of an angry-looking Russian woman holding up a placard with a big Z on it, indicating her support of Read the rest of this entry »
I am one who believes that travel is one of the last, best hopes for a world wracked with war, prejudice, hatred and greed. I embrace the quote by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I see travel as more than a business. It’s a mission, a striving for world peace and harmony. In the age of nuclear weapons and Mutually Assured Destruction, it is needed more than ever. It’s hard to meet people in other countries, see how much their concerns are the same as yours, and still think it’s okay to kill them.
So here we are in the midst of a terrible tragedy in Ukraine that was brought about as an act of choice by one man with too much power. No one knows where it’s going, how far it will go, or how much of the world will be Read the rest of this entry »
I recently saw a post on Facebook that pointed out 1970 is as far from 2022 as it was from 1918. For those of us who were around in 1970, that mathematical exercise is a pretty good way to estimate the vast scale of change that we are now swept up in. Most of it is still incomprehensible, or invisible to us. It’s easy enough to see the changes of the early 20th century because we have historical perspective. It’s not so easy to make sense of what we are currently immersed in. Given that the pace of change has accelerated, we have to presume that the change in the last 50 years is even greater than in the 50 years before that. It gives us plenty of room to imagine how much change has taken place around us that we cannot yet perceive. Read the rest of this entry »
Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, visited New York last week in preparation of Uganda’s rolling out of a rebranding campaign.
The slogan for the country will change from “Uganda, the Pearl of Africa” to “Exploring Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.”
It’s only one word changed, but as Mark Twain said, the difference of one word can be like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
More important than the change of slogan, the tourism department is changing its idea of how to market itself and to whom.
“We’ve been able to define who our audience is,” Lilly Ajarova told me. “We are looking for travelers, not just tourists, people who are more responsible, more mindful, and travel in a responsible way, as opposed to Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a time when senators, mayors and congresspeople are dropping out of public service, CEOs are stepping down at an unprecedented rate and leaders are abdicating their positions in droves—overwhelmed by the extraordinary demands of the times. The person who stepped into the leadership position at Delta Vacations, however, is eager and plucky.
“I can’t think of a better time to be joining than the last couple of months,” she told me. “There’s so much opportunity on the horizon to really create a strong connection with our customers and our travel advisors. Now this is going to be the fun part.”
Kama Winters became president of the wholesale vacation packager on June 21, after Read the rest of this entry »
Ray Snisky, group president of Apple Leisure Group’s vacations division, told travel advisors last week that the airlines were having trouble hiring staff, including pilots and mechanics. Speaking at the Travel Impressions Best of the Best event in Puerto Vallarta, Snisky said the airline staff shortages have been causing cancellations, which throw ALG into frantic efforts to rebook and re-accommodate thousands of clients at the last minute. Read the rest of this entry »
Funny how things change. “Check in” used to mean you had arrived at the airport and were ready to fly. It told the airline you had gotten to the airport on time and hadn’t got stuck in a traffic jam and missed the flight. But now you can check in online the day before your flight. The airline doesn’t know if you have made it to the airport until you have boarded. Or if you check a bag. This time I checked a bag. Later I wished I had gate-checked it.
My flight from Newark to Kansas City was my first in nearly two years. I used to fly about once a month. Since the onset of Covid layoff it’s been a long time of not setting foot in an airport. It was wild to plunge back into the madness. I forgot how mad it is.
I had planned to use Uber to get to the airport, but the app on my phone wasn’t working. It needed an update to even function. And time was fleeting. I updated the app, but then it wouldn’t take my credit card. My account showed an old expiration date, and it wouldn’t let me update the information. “You already have this card on file,” it commanded. “Try another one.” I didn’t want to use another one. But I did. You can’t argue with an app Read the rest of this entry »
When I was in India I took an elephant ride. It’s an attraction that is offered tourists in countries such as India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The elephants were decoratively adorned with colorful weavings. I sat over the shoulders and rocked with the movement as the elephant walked up a hillside toward a temple. It was a thrill to be on the back of such a big, wonderful animal that was generously allowing me to ride on his back. I felt gratitude and friendship for the gentle giant.
I admit, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. It was just a few moments of one day on a 10-day tour. I took the ride, enjoyed it, and then moved on to the next thing on my itinerary. Then one day I met Stephanie Shaw, the corporate liaison for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and I realized what should have been obvious to me in the first place. Of course. Why did I ever think that an elephant would work a day job carrying humans around on his back constantly of his own free will, hour after hour, day after day?
When I learned the story behind the elephant rides, I felt ashamed of myself for being so insensitive to the animal. I was sorry for having participated in it, for helping to perpetuate the practice of selling elephant rides, which requires a kind of captivity and treatment I can hardly bear to imagine.
I assume others who take the rides are like I was. They saw the elephant ride attraction and went on it, not thinking that much about how it came to be that the world’s largest land animal would be submitting itself to serving as a taxi at a tourist attraction Read the rest of this entry »
Ever true, tried and trusty, Longwoods International continues to monitor the changes in demand for travel with its latest survey, COVID-19 Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 46, published last week. The snapshot, taken a year and a half into a grisly pandemic, indicated that consumers have now settled into a “new normal” in regard to travel.
The study was conducted Sept.15. Longwoods surveyed a national sample randomly drawn from a consumer panel of 1,000 adults, ages 18 and over. The sample was tailored to match Census targets for age, gender, and region to make the survey representative of the US population.
About the best thing you could say about the results is that “it could have been worse.” And it certainly could have been. Just recall how it was before the vaccines came on the scene.
But with the recovery we saw gaining strength at the beginning of summer stalled by a resurgence in Read the rest of this entry »
There are many ways to look at Cuba. From a strictly-business point of view, it’s a sad story. There’s never been any question that there has been huge pent-up demand by Americans to travel to Cuba. After more than half a century of being prohibited by their own government from traveling to what used to be considered one of the hottest vacation destinations in the world, of course there is demand. It’s 90 miles from Florida, a heavenly tropical Caribbean destination. But for practical purposes it’s blackened off the tourist map.
There’s never been any situation that compares to it. Americans can travel pretty much anywhere. Americans are not dictated to by their government as to where they can travel. They can travel to America’s Cold War nemeses, Russia and China, even to Vietnam. But not Cuba. Read the rest of this entry »
I noticed recently that Expedia is using the slogan, “It matters who you travel with.” I found that to be a curious choice for the mega online travel agency. I agree with the statement wholeheartedly, but applying it to Expedia is a mismatch. It would be appropriate if you applied the slogan to the American Society of Travel Advisors.
ASTA used to use the slogan, “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.” And it was, ironically, Expedia who taught me the truth of that statement. It was a hard lesson.
It’s surprising to me that after so many years Expedia still has customers. I have to think that the people who still book with Expedia have never had anything go wrong on a trip. Because if you book with Expedia, and something does go wrong, you really are on your own. At least that was the case in my experience. Read the rest of this entry »
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” said Juliet Capulet, according to William Shakespeare. Times change, names change. Peking became Beijing. We got used to it. It doesn’t really matter.
Bombay is now Mumbai. Canton is now Guangzhou. Saigon is Ho Chi Minh City. St. Petersburg became Petrograd, then Leningrad, and now is St. Petersburg again. Constantinople is Istanbul. Natal province in South Africa became KwaZulu-Natal. New Amsterdam became New York. Cross Keys, Pennsylvania, became… Intercourse? I swear. It did. Look it up.
Now travel agents are known as travel advisors. Or travel advisers, depending on what you are reading. The reason for the change in nomenclature was, of course, to break from the past and emphasize that travel retailers don’t just turn over tickets for airlines Read the rest of this entry »
After a year of being locked down, it’s understandable that people may want to double up on their bucket list trips to make up for lost time. But Africa and Antarctica in the same trip? That seems a stretch.
When I first learned that two tour operators, Wilderness Safaris and White Desert, joined forces to offer two trips that combine an African safari with an Antarctic expedition, my reaction was that the combination was incongruous at best. In my mind, they seemed to be two separate worlds, almost like two opposite poles of experience. But, when I looked closer, I found that it makes perfect sense. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Branson, still cutting a charismatic figure at 70, flew to space and made it safely back again with his space tourism company Virgin Galactic. It was another milestone for Branson, who first made his fortune in the record business with Virgin Records in the early 1970s.
It’s been a long time since Branson embarked on his space enterprise, founding Virgin Galactic in 2004. In February 2007 I attended a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at which 45 Virtuoso travel agents were certified as Accredited Space Agents, after completing Virgin Galactic’s training regimen.
Anything to do with Branson is going to be done with top notch PR, and holding the event at Cape Canaveral was a brilliant stroke. Having dinner under a giant Saturn 5 Rocket created a heady atmosphere for travel agents tasked with introducing space flight to the public.
It gave the event a great boost to connect with the US space program Read the rest of this entry »