One of the reasons many attendees consider the USTOA Annual Conference & Marketplace the best travel conference of the year is because the tour operator members send their top people to the conference. It creates opportunities for unparalleled access to the heaviest movers and shakers of the tour industry. Because the tour segment connects and aggregates the products of all the other segments of the travel industry, the USTOA conference is a central connecting point for the entire global travel industry.Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s face it. Cruises are now commodity products. Everyone sells the same ships and itineraries for similar prices. So how do you stand out from all the others selling the same cruise—maybe for a few dollars less?
Try focusing on things you can add to the cruise package.Read the rest of this entry »
Once the capital of a sprawling empire, Rome has persisted through the ages as a spectacle of awe. From the Colosseum, once a place that embodied this very spectacle, to the intricate stonework of the Trevi Fountain, to the immaculately maintained Pantheon—Rome is full of sights to behold. This classically romantic city has much to offer, even in the winter when the crowds have thinned out and the heat of a humid summer has subsided.Read the rest of this entry »
New York City has its share of experiences for all manner of travelers. It is a city of many cultures showcased in the food, culture, architecture, art, and the heartbeat that thrives throughout NYC. This makes it a versatile city, able to provide a spectrum of travelers with tours and new memories of wonder at how so many people have called it home and evolved the rhythm and sites of this iconic city. With all there is to do, Beyond Times Square has curated a few luxury tours to show the traveler how it’s done in the most multicultural city in the United States.Read the rest of this entry »
Good things are often hiding in plain sight. Sometimes it only takes a slight shift in the way we are looking at things to see benefits that were previously invisible to us. And sometimes ideas that were previously left by the wayside are shown to be worthy of reconsideration in a new context.
Decades ago I read a book called Design for the Real World by an industrial designer named Victor Papanek, the dean of the California Institute of the Arts. Papanek saw through standard conventions and came up with radically new ways to do things. He was also one of the early advocates of what we now call sustainability. He was always looking for ways to do things that were less wasteful, less polluting, and more benign for people and the environment. One of the ideas that struck me in his book was the idea of reviving the use of airships for transportation.
Airships, blimps, dirigibles, and zeppelins are like giant balloons. A huge aluminum chamber is filled with a gas that is lighter than air, so it pulls the craft up into the sky with no propulsion required. It flies the way a carnival balloon flies Read the rest of this entry »
Island vacations are a true escape, one that feels the furthest from our everyday lives. Nothing but you, the beach, and long stretches of ocean to create distance from the daily grind and worries of life. About 870mi west of Lisbon, Portugal is the opportunity to visit just that place—the Azores Islands. A place that not only provides a remote getaway, but prides itself on sustainable tourism.
Officially named the Autonomous Region of the Azores, the Azores is an archipelago of 9 islands. Being volcanic in nature, the fertile earth of the islands sprang up a paradise. Lush green fields, forests, and mountains cover the terrain. Particularly São Miguel, the largest island in Read the rest of this entry »
With interest in UK-bound travel gathering pace, I’ve put together a collection of commission-generating ideas for you to offer your clients.
As some of them might have been hoping to go to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, entice them with a tour that includes the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show at Wisley along with Downton Abbey and the royal garden at Highgrove House.
I’ve created a programme based around the hugely popular Jane Austen Festival in Bath (think of all those clients who are riveted by the many costume dramas on the TV) and a Girls Getaway which brings together a major Antiques Fair with London’s Markets.
Meanwhile, in Scotland Read the rest of this entry »
As Spain and Portugal rise in popularity for travel, Petrabax has been showing the Iberian Peninsula to travelers for almost 40 years. With an array of ways to take care of the traveler, they have created tours from a unique point of view—one that originates from the owner and operators hailing from the northwestern region of Galicia. From life-changing paths to a future one-stop shop for agents, Petrabax has one foot firmly set in showing the past and another stepping into the future of travel.
Petrabax is family owned and operated. The founder, Jose Zuñiga, was from the region of Galicia in northwest of Spain; while its current director and nephew of Jose, Marcos Roel, is also Galician. This lends perfectly 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 »
As the European country with the oldest consistent borders, Portugal is a multivariate experience. The cultural influences brought on by this 900 years of existence have added to the flavor of Portugal. And, though a smaller nation, it is busting at the seams with a lively culture and sublime scenery for the traveler to explore.
They say the stomach is the window to happiness, and Portugal is well on its way to being the perfect portal. The cafes and restaurants that line the streets are well known around the world for their culinary treats. These are often simple and delicious dishes: fresh baked bread with olive oil or cheese, or both smooth red wines and crisp, green wines (vinho verde). But, far more often, Portuguese dishes feature Read the rest of this entry »
Every travel advisor has a few great stories to tell. But last week, Allison Sodha showed the world what she’s been up to while her agency business stalled due to Covid. She tells some of her very favorite tales, in a new book about travel to India.
It’s the eighth installment of “Go! Girl Guides,” a series dedicated to travel by and for women—and released, appropriately, on International Women’s Day.
Since March 2020, when “we literally shuttered overnight, then had a little break in December when India and Thailand reopened temporarily,” Sodha has been “developing YouTube channels and writing this book, which was a great distraction. It’s my love affair to India.”
And now travel is back; in the past three weeks, bookings have quadrupled. And her book is out! 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 »
Have a group that’s concerned about traveling in a time of Covid? Why not have their questions answered and their concerns put to rest by a concierge doctor who will go over everything they need to know—or even come along with you?
That’s the newest business venture of ER physician Yvette McQueen. She heard the concern of so many travel advisors, meeting planners, and frequent travelers that she set out on a new business venture as a private travel health consultant.
McQueen has been scratching her own travel bug for the past 14 years as a traveling ER doctor, going from one hospital to the next to fill in for staffers who were on leave, or when there was a staffing shortage. As a frequent traveler herself, she had a particular interest in safe travel, and quickly became an expert in how to avoid getting sick—and what to do if Read the rest of this entry »
“Keep calm and visit Ukraine,” says one travel insurance supplier’s recent marketing campaign, in a tone-deaf call for travel advisors to become evangelists for travel to Ukraine (Visit Ukraine – INFORMATION PAGE FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS).
And indeed, travel advisors report that many clients are holding steady on their planned cruises and FITs in the region, if not to Ukraine itself. Still, though, as final payments come due, politics and the drumbeat of military operations are beginning to take a toll.
“I sell cruises only, and I’m a top producer for Virtuoso, so I have lots of people going to that region—and surprisingly few have canceled,” says Linda Speer of Cruises by Linda in Harrison, AR. “Still, I have a group of seven cabins booked on a Baltic cruise in September that’s looking instead for something to do domestically. Between omicron and this Ukraine business, it was just too much uncertainty.”
Of course, that’s something Speer has gotten used to of late Read the rest of this entry »
I’m always on the lookout for living history experiences and new attractions that can add bubble, fizz and pleasant surprises to UK tours. This week, I’m introducing you to six of them that fit that requirement.
York’s annual Viking Festival has been moved from February to June, which means that many more of us can enjoy this mighty celebration of the city’s Nordic origins. This is then followed by the staging of the medieval Mystery Plays, a once in every four years event. In Manchester, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bridgewater Garden is fast becoming one of the UK’s must-see gardens which, when coupled with the stunning estates in Cheshire and North Wales, will be of great interest to green-fingered customers. Meanwhile, in Liverpool, the brand-new theatre modelled on Inigo Jones’ cockpit-in-court 17th century masterpiece will throw open its doors in the summer.
Read on and let’s be creative about Read the rest of this entry »
Offering up the best of the best in travel isn’t easy; this takes tenacity, an open mind to the traveler’s wants and needs, and a healthy perspective on what a destination has to offer. And Intrepid Travel is a supplier that prides itself on these attributes. They have been a tour provider for 30 years with sustainable travel focused on local perspectives, an expansive list of countries, and even a not-for-profit foundation that has raised millions of dollars.
Intrepid Travel offers up more than 1,150 trips, in 23 countries, on every continent. These include family-friendly vacations, wildlife and polar tours, a journey through local foods, adventure cruising, and adventures like cycling and touring. The destinations of these tours span the world, from seeing Read the rest of this entry »
With interest in travelling to the UK steadily growing, so are the number of ’email conversations’ I’m having with enterprising travel advisors who want to offer their customers some different aspects of their old friend Britain. Some of the customised travel experiences were hallmarked by a selection of the On Location visits highlighted a couple of weeks ago. If you missed them, you can see them again here.
One of the most recent email exchanges was for a family looking for an imaginative countryside and London tour. They didn’t want to travel far, and what has emerged is an action-packed programme that starts in Royal Windsor, travels to Oxford before heading for London, where with jetlag parked, they will be able to get the maximum out of their four nights in the capital.
If this sequence appeals to you, discuss it with your clients and let’s start our own email conversation. Read the rest of this entry »
Although your anglophile clients have been unable to fly to the UK since the end of March 2020 (!), aspects of Britain have been appearing frequently on their/your TV screens with reruns of Endeavour, Morse, Lewis, Poldark, Doc Martin, Father Brown, Keeping up Appearances, Grantchester, Downton Abbey, The Vicar of Dibley, All Creatures Great and Small—along with a whole host of irresistible movies, dramas, and sitcoms.
They’ve done a huge job of waving the GB flag, and I think you’re missing a trick if you’re not talking to some of your frequent UK travellers about how you can customise a tour that blends together leisurely On Location visits for their favourite TV shows with other must-see visits to castles, stately homes, cathedrals, literary shrines all washed down with some memorable meet the locals, pub lunches and suppers.
Here’s a handful of travel-less, see-more suggestions for you to consider. 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 »
Budapest, with its wonderfully varied architecture, is getting a revamped look of an important part of its history and culture. Buda Castle has been a staple of the landscape of Budapest for 750 years. But, starting in 2019 and continuing into well into this year, Buda Castle and the surrounding district of Budapest is getting a well-deserved upgrade. Dubbed The National Hauszmann Program, this restoration and improvement project has had a substantial impact on what the traveler will witness in an already vibrant destination. Read the rest of this entry »
I LOVE Backroads. What’s to love? The company layers its active adventures, primarily cycling, on top of cruises, both ocean and river. That layering provides the perfect adventure: You spend your days being active, exploring Europe the way many Europeans do, straddling a saddle. Your floating hotel is your oasis for rest and replenishment.
In 2016, I had what turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve had on the rivers, cycling with my son while cruising on AmaWaterways. Check out Backroads Bike Trips & River Boating: A Winning Combination For Active Travelers. Rinse and repeat. In 2019, we cruised Ponant and pedaled Croatia, a wonderful trip that I summed up Read the rest of this entry »