Where is Tourism Growing?

(Recently posted on CNN)

Don’t be surprised if your favorite city feels a bit more crowded the next time you visit.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization has released its latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and the flood of global travelers looking to journey beyond their borders is stronger than ever.
Numbers indicate that destinations worldwide received 369 million international tourists (overnight visitors) in the first four months of 2017 — a whopping 21 million more than in the same few months of 2016.
Perhaps even more surprising are the report’s figures highlighting the fastest-growing tourist destinations in 2017, based on international arrivals.
These include up-and-coming destinations such as Mongolia, alongside tourism stalwarts Vietnam and Iceland.
The data also reveals that countries recently plagued by terrorism or political unrest — such as Egypt and Tunisia — still have the tourism pull to rebound from a downward turn.
Intrigued? Here are UNWTO’s fastest-growing tourist destinations in 2017, along with their growth rates, and their full-year figures for 2016.
1. Palestinian territories: up 57.8%. (400,000 visitors in 2016).
2. Egypt: up 51%. (5.26 million visitors in 2016).
3. Northern Mariana Islands: up 37.3%. (531,000 visitors in 2016).
4. Iceland: up 34.9%. (1.79 million visitors in 2016).
5. Tunisia: up 32.5%. (5.7 million visitors in 2016).
6. Vietnam: up 31.2%. (10 million visitors in 2016).
7. Uruguay: up 30.2%. (3 million visitors in 2016).
8. Nicaragua: up 28.4%. (1.5 million visitors in 2016).
9. Mongolia: up 28.3%. (404,000 visitors in 2016).
10. Israel: up 25.1%. (2.9 million visitors in 2016).

Have To Save Money While Traveling

 

(This article was written by Christine Johnson who has a travel blog called mytravelingkids.com)

Who doesn’t like to save money when possible? Traveling can be expensive, but with the right strategy you can bring down the cost. Try these 15 tips on your next vacation and your wallet will thank you.

1. Look for free activities. If you do a little research, you’ll see there are often lots of free activities in the area. Look at community calendars to see what is going on in town while you are there. Do a self-guided walking tour to familiarize yourself with your destination. Museums often have a ‘pay what you can’ day once a week and sometimes have discounted admission after a certain time of day.

2. Book a room with a refrigerator/microwave or kitchen area.Although some people might not like to cook while on vacation, I don’t mind making breakfast in my room. I love having a cup of coffee on my deck, but room service can be very pricy. I’d rather eat-in for breakfast and lunch and then splurge on a fancy dinner. A microwave and fridge will also be helpful for reheating leftovers.

3. Shop at farmer’s markets and local stores. Farmer’s markets often lower the price of their food towards the end of the day. Also, shopping at local stores allows you to taste the local cuisine without having to pay the price of a restaurant. Buy some local fish and cook it up at your condo.

4. Before you book, be aware of the location of where you’re staying.Transportation can add up quickly, so you may want to stay in a central location. Ideally, somewhere you can walk everywhere would work best. If you’re staying in a city, will you be near a subway or bus stop?

5. Carry snacks/water during outings. Kids will need snacks while you are exploring, and it drives me crazy to spend money on silly snacks. Throw some granola bars in your bag and pull them out when the kids need fuel. Don’t even get me started on how much I hate spending money on bottled water when I can buy an entire case for the same amount. Always carry your own water. However, splurge when it comes to treats that you can only find in that location.

6. Use points or miles. Chain hotels, like Hilton and Marriott, have a reward system that give you points for staying there and they are great to use for free overnight stays. When traveling, try to exclusively stay at those hotels and fly the same airlines to build your points.

7. Look for city tourism cards. Depending on the card, you can gain free entry to top visitor attractions, discounts at restaurants and shops, skip-the-line options at busy attractions, free public transportation, and even free guidebooks. Depending on your itinerary, it might be worth the money.

8. Don’t get the best room. How much time are you actually going to use your room? Will you just be sleeping there? Do you need a room with a good view or so much extra space? Will you use the amenities, such as a pool or a fitness room?

9. Be flexible when flying. If you are not on a tight schedule, can you be flexible with the time of day you fly, the number of stops, or your seat selection? Do you mind having a long layover? If possible, check the dates of your trip and see if the price would go down if you tweaked the dates a bit.

10. Stay outside a city. You often pay for location, and it’s sometimes cheaper to stay away from areas with big tourist attractions. You can always go to the attractions and then head back to your hotel to sleep.

11. Rent an apartment instead of having to get two rooms. My friends with three or more kids are often complaining how expensive it is to stay in a hotel because they need to get adjoining rooms. An apartment or condo is often much cheaper. I love to use VRBO, HomeAway, and have even used TripAdvisor.

12. Go off season. You can usually find cheaper plane tickets and hotel rooms by going off season, and there may be more availability. You will not have to deal with large crowds and attractions could also be cheaper at that time. Just make sure places are open.

13. Have a big lunch. Restaurants often offer lunch specials with less expensive prices. You could also buy extra food at lunch and save it for dinner later.

14. Don’t eat in areas that are close to tourist destinations. In some cities, walking just a few blocks can slash prices at restaurants. I try to never eat at attractions because they tend to raise the price to their captive audience.

15. Create a budget and stick to it! Know when to save and when to splurge. We always eat at a nice restaurant on our last night of vacation. Look for ways to save money but also treat yourself during the trip. Having a budget is a wonderful way to keep yourself on track.

What are your tips for saving money while traveling?

Things To Do Before Traveling Overseas

Break out those reading glasses.

Read up on your destination. Be aware of any visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical systems in the country—or countries—you plan to visit, all of which can inform next steps of your preparation.

Flip through your passport.

Make sure that little blue (or green, red, or black) book is up to date. All passports should be valid for up to six months from your exit date in the country, and should have at least two blank pages. (Not all countries require six months of validity, but as other travelers learned the hard way, it pays to be safe.)

(Now make a copy of it.)

Copy the page that has your photo and full name on it, and keep these copies in separate places—at the bottom of your bag in different pieces of luggage, or even with different people who may be traveling with you. Leave one copy of your passport at home, with coworkers if on a work trip, and to take extra precautions, leave one with an emergency contact. Really nervous about your passport getting stolen? In the odd chance that you need to replace your passport, have photos at the ready and bring extras with you, too.

Get a visa.

If you need one, that is…

Research Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts.

Both may affect your travel plans. As previously reported by Traveler, travel alerts are issued on the heels of specific, one-off events. According to the State Department, examples of reasons for issuing an alert might include an election season that could mean strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1; or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks. Travel warnings, meanwhile, are a broad-reaching caution, and may stem from unstable governance, extenuating circumstances, frequent violence and terrorist attacks, or civil war. (It also helps to check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling for the latest, local security messages.)

Make sure you get a shot (or five).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommendations for vaccines you should get before you head abroad, as well as note other health precautions travelers should take.

Read the fine print on your medical insurance.

Reach out to your medical insurance provider and ask if your policy covers overseas emergencies. If the answer is no, consider how long you’ll be gone for, what you’ll be doing, and adding extra coverage through supplemental insurance plans.

Manage your money.

Create a travel alert on your bank’s website, via phone, or in person to let them know what dates you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be traveling, and what cards you’ll be using. Research exchange rates. Research your destination. Are ATMs easy to find? Do most places—even in the middle of nowhere—take credit cards? Get answers before you’ve ordered two tacos al pastor in Mexico City—and are wondering how you’ll pay.

Get a letter.

Traveling alone with a child? Foreign officials may require proof of custody or written consent from the other parent. Bringing medication? Get a note from your doctor, as some countries may have different laws.

Figure out your phone plan.

Research phone plans in other countries, and see if it’s cheaper to get a local SIM card and use a new number and carrier service, or shell out for an international roaming plans. If you’re only going on a short trip, or looking to save money, turn your phone on Airplane mode and use Wi-Fi to call via Skype or WhatsApp.

Dive deep into the world of adapters and converters.

You’ve got to charge that iPhone, after all, and not all plugs are alike. Research sockets in the places you’re visiting, and invest in adapters or portable chargers that can be charged off of your laptop via USB. (This luggage will charge your phone, too.)

Talk to the post office.

Gone for more than a week? Put your mail on hold—a pile of letters and packages have been known to go missing, and notify would-be burglars that you’re not home.

Enroll in STEP.

An oft-overlooked State Department resource, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, is a free service that lets users register trips and get messages relevant to their trip area and dates of passage.

Here’s how it works: After booking their flights and hotels, travelers enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and provide requisite information—think name, date of birth, passport number, travel dates, email addresses and phone numbers, and an emergency contact. Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll receive warnings, alerts, notifications, and news about where you’re traveling, or may even be contacted by family members having difficulty getting in touch with you while abroad. And while larger travel alerts and warnings often appear in the news by themselves, these local messages from STEP (received via email) can be helpful in detailing specific safety, security, and practical travel information relevant to specific dates and destinations.

Take notes.

Jot down the number of the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate with you, in English and the local language: All provide emergency help 24/7 overseas and in Washington, D.C.

Are You Packing Too Much?

 

(This Article was recently in Smart Traveler)

Do you struggle to make it through the airport with your unusually large suitcase?

Do baggage fees dominate your credit card statements? Does your luggage frequently come apart at the seams?

If you’re giving a sombre nod, you’re packing too much and it’s time to lose the dead weight. To alleviate your packing troubles, let’s uncover the root of your problem. Here are 10 factors that could be the cause of your overpacking ills, along with some handy tips for lightening your load.

You’re packing for the worst-case scenario

When in doubt, leave it out. Will you really need your swimmers on your business trip? Realistically, will you have an occasion to wear long jeans on your cruise around the Pacific?

Yes, unexpected things will happen on your trip. But contingency planning — from travel insurance to backup copies of identification — shouldn’t extend to the entire contents of your bag.

Pack the essentials for the things that are by and large certain: the activities you have planned, the predicted weather, the prescribed length of your trip. In the event that a cataclysmic pole shift causes the weather in your destination to drastically change, you can always buy warmer clothes while there.

Your bag is too big

If your bag is enormous, you’ll be hard-pressed not to fill it to the brim. The solution is to use a smaller bag to impose reasonable limits on yourself.

Once you’ve bound yourself to the confines of a 56cm vessel, you’ll be compelled to pack a lot less. Plus, a lightweight, good-quality piece of baggage that is well within major airlines’ baggage-size requirements is a worthy investment.

Let’s be honest: if your bag has a lot of space to play with, you’ll find something to fill the space with. Opt for a smaller bag. Picture: iStock

You’re under the tyranny of the weather

Trips through multiple climates or during transitional seasons may lead you to overcompensate and overpack. An April afternoon in Europe could yield anything from wind and ice-cold rain to balmy sunshine. So does that mean you should pack a complete outfit for each possible weather scenario? Not exactly.

The trick is to bring lightweight pieces that layer well. For example, a thin jumper packs the same warming punch of bulky outwear when layered over a warm long-sleeved tee and topped with a cosy scarf. (Find more weather-related packing tips here.)

You’re a procrastinator

It’s essential to create a packing list before leaving for a long journey. For procrastinators, though, this comes as a challenge. You can’t pull together a smart list of things to bring when you’re throwing the contents of your closet into a suitcase several hours before your flight takes off.

Eliminate the temptation to put off packing until the eleventh hour by focusing on the negative consequences of your procrastination. If you don’t think ahead and come up with a good plan, you’re going to be stuck with an overpacked bag and thereby spend your trip lugging around pounds of unnecessary supplies and paying overweight- and oversized-bag fees.

You don’t have the right stuff

Invest in travel products that will ease your packing for years to come. With the right gear, you can pack less by including lighter, multifunctional travel products in your bag. Some of our favourites include foldable shoes, compression bags, and ultra-lightweight clothes.

Stick with stuff you will definitely use — not stuff that would be good to have, just in case. Picture: iStock

You’re not being honest with yourself

Sometimes we find ourselves stuffing our suitcases full of hope. You pack your running shoes and your travel yoga mat because you’ll definitely keep up with your workout routine while on your trip. This time it’ll be different! Or maybe you throw that slinky, glittery dress you never wear into your bag because you think the adventure of travelling will incite you to sport the kind of attire you normally wouldn’t put on at home.

Think hard about what you’ll use on your trip, in actuality, and take note of which items you’ve used on your former travels. After all, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

You lack a laundry strategy

For trips longer than a week, plan to do laundry on the road. Bring laundry soap and wash your clothes in the hotel sink. Look up the locations of laundromats near your accommodation, or investigate prices for laundry services on your cruise or at your hotel. (Hotel laundry services tend to be a rip-off, so choose the do-it-yourself method for maximum savings.) Another option is to consider arranging an apartment rental as they commonly have laundry facilities.

You don’t colour co-ordinate

The secret to pulling together an interesting and diverse assortment of outfits with only a small number of pieces packed in a tiny little bag is colour co-ordination.

First, opt for mostly neutrals. Next, when you add in colour, keep your choices within the same family, such as blues and blacks, or soft coral and peach tones. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll find that you can pack in such a way that all of your tops co-ordinate with all of your bottoms, yielding exponential outfit options. (Read more about how to colour co-ordinate here).

It’s nice to have everything you’ll need and more, but it’s not nice lugging this junk around on holiday. Picture: iStock

You’re a newbie

You’ve underestimated the importance of packing light because you haven’t yet experienced the hell on earth that is dragging three vending-machine-sized bags onto the Paris Metro.

Don’t be foolish. Take the advice of the umpteen travellers who have gone before you and pack the absolute bare minimum.

You’re addicted to gadgets

Gadgets and gizmos can prove useful on a trip. (We love us a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones.) But they can also take up a lot of space and add weight to your bag, especially when each electronic item must be paired with its own proprietary charger.

Universal chargers, such as this rechargeable external battery, are gold — we highly recommend picking one up if you normally travel with an armload of tangled cords and power accessories.

Then there’s the problem of packing the necessary converters and adaptors for the countries you’re visiting.

Our advice? Call your concierge in advance. Hotels commonly keep chargers, adaptors, and converters behind the front desk for complimentary guest use.

This article originally appeared on Smarter Travel.

How to Plan For An Emgerency

 

(This was recently on Wendy Perrin’s web blog)

When you prepare for a trip, it’s smart to prepare for an emergency too. The threats of political unrest, natural disasters (like this year’s slew of earthquakes and hurricanes), and terrorist attacks—both at home and abroad—are not going away any time soon. But by all means don’t focus so much on highly unlikely, spectacular risks that you ignore the common risks that are far more likely to do you harm. For example, I traveled to London recently, and I optimized my family’s safety not by doing anything so extreme as avoiding the Tube (a target of past terrorist attacks) or abstaining from a cricket match at The Oval (another potential target, what with 24,000 spectators in a stadium), but by making sure we looked both ways when crossing the street, used a bathmat so we would not slip and fall in the shower, and played Pokémon Go only in traffic-free parks and squares.

In addition to keeping risks in perspective, here’s what I do to be prepared for emergencies when I travel:

Before Your Trip

1. Enroll in STEP.
Signing up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program makes it easier for the U.S. embassy to send you important information about safety conditions, contact you in an emergency, and help family and friends get in touch with you. Enrolling is easy and quick.

2. Activate your phone for overseas use so that, at a minimum, you can send and receive text messages.
That way you can communicate with others in your traveling party via text message, receive STEP security updates and Twitter Alerts (see #14) via text message, etc.

3. Depending on how remote or risky your destination is, consider carrying a satellite phone or satellite text-messaging device.
In an emergency, you could lose your ability to communicate by cell phone. Internet access could be unavailable as well. Satellite devices do not depend on cell-phone or Internet technology and are much less expensive to rent than they used to be. In countries where satellite phones are illegal—India and China, for instance—you can rent a local mobile phone.

4. Whatever your communication device is, carry extra battery power for it.
If you’re using a smartphone, attach a Mophie or carry a charging block; if you’re using a satellite phone, have an additional battery.

5. Choose a hotel in the right neighborhood, with the right TV news channels and high-speed Internet access.
If you’ve got CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and fast Wi-Fi, you can easily monitor the news and check local English-language websites for news and help. Pick a hotel that is not located close to a symbolic plaza where protests and traffic jams occur (e.g., Taksim Square in Istanbul, or Tahrir Square in Cairo).

6. Book your trip through the right destination specialist.
This gives you a local fixer, advocate, problem solver. The travel specialists on my WOW List know which areas of their destination are safe and which aren’t, and arrange trips based on the latest on-the-ground intel. They connect you with the savviest drivers and “guides” — more expediters and strategists than traditional tour guides — who have the background and credentials to keep you safe and have access to key people in the country who will take care of you. I know this based not only on personal experience, having traveled under their vigilance, but also based on years of feedback from travelers. For example, when Nepal specialist Antonia (Toni) Neubauer had WendyPerrin.com travelers in Nepal during the 2015 quake, she quickly got them on a flight out of the country. (Read the review of Toni that the travelers, Joe and Rowena Burke, posted on Toni’s reviews page.) At dicey moments, Israel specialist Joe Yudin has kept WendyPerrin.com travelers safe (read Nadika Wignarajan’s review here), Turkey specialist Earl Starkey has as well (read reports from his travelers here), and so has Greece specialist Christos Stergiou (read Jeff Goble’s review here). WOW Listers also provide you with the physical tools to stay safe: India specialist Sanjay Saxena, for instance, gives you an in-country mobile phone pre-programmed with numbers for local staff, hotels, emergency services, etc. Of course, his in-country and U.S. staff are available 24/7 as well.

7. Pack certain medicines.
Bring a prescription antibiotic and prescription pain reliever that you know work for you, in case you end up needing to be your own doctor. Bring iodine tablets (or one of the newer technologies) to purify dirty water too, since, in an emergency, bottled water supplies quickly run out.

8. Plot on a paper map where the local embassy, consulate, and best hospitals are.
In an emergency you won’t want to rely on your smartphone or Google Maps app to get you there; you’ll want to save your battery for calls to loved ones, doctors, etc. Know where the best hospitals are—not just for the capital city, which could be hours away from where you are when a crisis strikes, but for other cities too.

9. Purchase an emergency assistance plan.
A MedjetHorizon membership can get you safely out of a crisis situation 24/7 and can also get you out of a foreign hospital and back home to a hospital you know and trust. They can come to the rescue in the event of a terrorist or political threat, violent crime, or if you need a ground ambulance, specialty hospital transfer, or cash advance.

During Your Trip

10. Program your cell phone with emergency numbers.
Remember that 911 does not work for countries outside the USA and Canada. Here’s one list of local emergency numbers, but also ask your hotel concierge for the best numbers for the police, medical emergencies, and someone at your hotel who can help.

11. Carry a mini-flashlight.
You don’t want to get caught in the dark.

12. Carry your hotel’s business card, in the local language.
You can show it to police or taxi drivers to get back to safety quickly.

13. Carry a photocopy of your passport photo page and any visas.

Keep it on your person during the trip, in case the original is back at your hotel (usually the smartest place to keep it) or gets lost in the emergency.

14. Follow relevant Twitter feeds that can provide reliable, accurate updates and potentially life-saving alerts.
Such Twitter feeds will vary by destination and type of emergency. Usually, though, you’ll want to follow the U.S. embassy feed in the country you’re visiting, as well as the U.S. State Department’s feed, @travelgov. The @RedCross and Google’s Crisis Response Team, @GoogleCR, are also worth following, as are the local airport’s feed, which may post updates about airport delays and shutdowns, and the feeds of local hotels, which usually have an emergency action plan and may be offering help or a landline. You can also turn on Twitter Alerts for the feeds relevant to the destination you’re headed to.

15. Know that Google has a person finder and Facebook has a Safety Check feature.
In natural and humanitarian disasters, Google helps track missing persons. When a crisis occurs, Facebook activates its Safety Check feature: If you’re in an affected area, use it to alert friends and family that you’re okay; if you’re at home, you can use it to search for travelers and confirm their status.

If You Have a Trip Booked to an Area Perceived as Risky

* Don’t overreact: Realize that the geographic area affected is limited.

So often, when a crisis strikes a country, U.S. travelers unnecessarily cancel trips to a huge swath of the world surrounding that country. They avoid regions that have not been affected in the least—which would be like Europeans deciding against a trip to New York because there was an earthquake in San Francisco or a terror attack in Orlando. The Italy earthquake is no reason to cancel a trip to Tuscany, the same way the Nice attack was no reason to cancel a trip to the Dordogne.

* Don’t confuse the probability of an incident with the probability of becoming the victim of that incident.
Is it virtually certain that there will be another terrorist attack in Europe in 2016?  Yes.  Does that translate into a high degree of risk for the individual traveler to Europe?  No.

* Understand the psychological reasons why your fear of a terrorist attack is out of proportion to the risk—and why you fear a terrorist attack more than an earthquake.
I explain it in my article 7 Keys to Traveling Without Fear Despite Terrorist Attacks.

* Know where the real dangers lie.
Remember that the single biggest cause of death for Americans traveling overseas is motor vehicle accidents.

Before Your Trip

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Summer travel season is here!

Some aviation experts are predicting a record 234.1 million passengers will travel the world on United States-based airlines between June 1 and August 31.

We put so much thought into booking flights and hotels and packing our bags, that we sometimes overlook important things at home before we hit the road.

Today’s “Lauren’s List” has some helpful hints of what you should be doing any time you leave town for a few days or more.

1. Give Your Bank Notice- No one wants to hear those dreadful words, “I’m sorry. Your card was denied.” Especially not while on vacation. If you planned ahead, you should have plenty of cash, but you can avoid that headache all together if you just call your bank ahead of time to let them know you will have some unusual activity from a specific location that isn’t your hometown. This is especially important when traveling abroad, but even just across state lines. My card was waived for fraud once because of a $10 bagel and coffee in New York City!

2. Unplug- We usually try to unplug while on vacation by stepping away from our smartphones and tablets. But in this case, I mean you should literally unplug those appliances and electronics that could be sucking up power while you’re out of town. Kitchen gadgets, TVs and DVD players don’t need to be plugged in when they’re not in use.

3. Keep Up Appearances- Make sure to put your mail on hold or have someone set to pick it up. If your grass is due to be cut, make sure the lawn service still shows up as planned. Also, rather than just leaving your porch light on at all hours, set a timer so it goes on and off at the usual times. Another interesting tip, security experts actually suggest leaving some blinds partially open. If all the blinds are closed, it looks like no one is home. Just make sure you can’t see any expensive electronics through the blinds you do leave open.

4. Prep Food For Homecoming: This may seem counter-intuitive, but now that I’ve read up on it, I’m definitely doing this for my next trip. Definitely get rid of anything that will expire while you’re gone, but it stinks to get home to an empty fridge after a long travel day. You probably don’t want to cook, or spend even more money on take out, but if you have a meal prepped, frozen and ready to just throw in the oven, it will definitely make for a nice homecoming. Even better, have some frozen breakfast ready for the next day too, so you don’t have to wake up extra early just to go to the store.

What’s on your list of things to do before going on vacation?

Tell me on Facebook or Twitter.

Places You Need to Add to your Bucket List

(This article was recently post in USA Today)

Travel is changing the world rapidly, and your bucket list should transform with it. Tourist-packed sights are the new normal in many places, thanks to expanding affordable air routes. Expand your bucket-list travel beyond the typical tourist favorites with these underrated islands, countries and cities around the world.

Portugal

The gateway to Europe, Portugal isn’t just an affordable alternative to glitzy metropolises like Paris. It’s also an understated bucket-list travel destination home to both awe-inspiring natural wonders and culturally rich cities.

Bustling Lisbon’s mosaic-paved squares, hilly streets and world-class cuisine make it a must-see and must-taste — try the vinho verde, bacalao and pastel de nata while you’re there. Then head to Porto for coastal charms that include cobble-stoned neighborhoods, colorful boats, the port wine scene for which it’s named, and the famous Hogwarts-inspiring bookshop, Livraria Lello. Find your way to sea cave-dotted Lagos, or head west to the Azores, the Portuguese island chain in the middle of the Atlantic. Portugal may be a  small nation, but it’s the perfect place to pack in colorful culture and outdoor adventure.

Minneapolis

If the word “Minnesota” doesn’t spark thoughts of brewery-hopping, outdoor adventure, live music and historic art, then it’s time to get acquainted with Minneapolis. Discover bucket-list travel in an unexpected — and easy to reach — U.S. city when you visit sights such as the the rushing Minnehaha waterfall, try some of the best beers in the U.S., explore green parks and shorelines like Chain of Lakes, and take in famed art museums in the larger of Minnesota’s Twin Cities on the Mississippi River. The food and craft beer scene here are on the rise, and Minneapolis has a beloved live music and cultural scene to boot — Seventh Street Entry’s First Avenue music venue has been a favorite among locals and visitors alike since 1970.

Bolivia

For a South American escape without the built-up hotels and tourist hordes, head to lesser-known Bolivia. From glassy lakes and vast salt flats to mountain ranges and dense rainforests, Bolivia’s varied terrain and climate zones mean you can experience every type of adventure activity, or stick to the environments you like best. The unique culture, wildlife and festivals mean you can explore pre-Incan ruins, spot monkeys in the national parks, and dive into cultural events like Oruro Carnival, which is recognized with a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Mallorca, Spain

The Balearic Islands of Spain are the perfect alternative to the overrun Greek isles and Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Party-centric Ibiza is the most famous of the Belearic Islands, but for a true bucket-list travel escape, choose the island of Mallorca instead.  Palma, Mallorca’s capital, is famous for architectural delights like Moorish castles and Gaudi works that echoes the architect’s Barcelona masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. Explore cultural sites, lounge on idyllic beaches and revel in Spain’s vibrant nightlife.

Sri Lanka

Newly visitable Sri Lanka has been a bucket-list travel spot in-waiting since its decades-long civil war ended in 2009. The island nation known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean is a triple-threat destination, with safari drives, tea plantations and white-sand beaches beckoning visitors from around the world. Enjoy Indian-influenced seafood; learn about the local Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim communities; and spot elephants and jaguars in Yala National Park. The Sri Lankan people are eager to share their customs and are easily accessible if you opt for a local-led tour like Intrepid Travel’s Real Food Adventure Sri Lanka, which includes cooking classes in family homes.

Houston

Texas is having a moment, thanks to evolving cities like diverse Houston — a newly bike-able hub that’s dotted with beer gardens, museums, manicured parks and dining options rivaling those in packed cities like New York and Los Angeles. Houston is affordable and undiscovered by most tourists, with a walkable downtown historic district (Market Square) as well as a Midtown rife with high-end eateries and breweries.

Head to Karbach Brewing or Saint Arnold to taste Texas-style beers, then traverse downtown on a BCycle bike for just a few dollars, bop around the Museum District’s 19 institutions, or head west to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park for an inspiring water monument unlike any other. Food offerings and beer gardens here are often al fresco or New Orleans-influenced, and Houston has been called the most diverse city in the nation — making it a unique Texas hotspot.

What Happens To The Slightly Used Toiletries at Hotels?

Every day millions of bars of soap and half-used bottles of shampoo are discarded in hotel shower trays around the world; abandoned by guests who didn’t stay long enough to use them up.

Many of these toiletries are scooped up by chambermaids, thrown into bin bags and sent off to landfill sites, which is a disaster for the environment and a social travesty given that many people around the world are going without proper sanitation.

The figures are startling: according to the World Health Organisation, millions of lives could be saved if the planet’s poorest people had access to soap, a humble product that most of us take for granted.

If only there was a way of diverting all those leftover toiletries to the people who need them most. Cue Shawn Seipler, a Florida-based entrepreneur who quit his high-profile job at a major tech company to recycle hotel toiletries. This unlikely career change began one night when Seipler found himself on the road with work.

“I called the front desk of the hotel and asked them what happened to the soap when I was done with it,” he told Telegraph Travel. “Of course they said ‘well we throw it away’.”

So Seipler did some [back-of-the-envelope] calculations and concluded that millions of half-used bars of soap were being sent to landfill daily around the world. He was also aware that poor sanitation was killing millions of people in the developing world.

“I had a eureka moment,” he said. So, in 2009, Seipler started collecting leftover toiletries from Florida’s hotels, which he began recycling in a relative’s garage in Orlando. Clean the World was born.

“We would sit around on upside down pickle buckets with potato peelers and scrape the outside of bars of soap to surface clean them,” Seipler recalled. “We had meat grinders to grind down the soap, cookers to cook it into a paste and soap moulds, which we poured the paste into.”

In numbers | Waste toiletries

This laborious process is now fully automated (including the addition of an antibacterial agent, which kills any germs) and Clean the World has now distributed more than 40 million bars of soap to impoverished people in 115 countries.

The organisation has recycling centres in Orlando, Vegas, Montreal and Hong Kong and is currently looking to open a fifth in Europe (there are already collection centres in Birmingham and Hanover).

Clean the World has behemoths such as Hilton, Disney and IHG on its books. It charges them £1 per room per month and in return those companies get a chance to demonstrate some corporate social responsibility.

“We now have 303 hotels participating in the programme,” said Paul Snyder, vice president of corporate responsibility at IHG.

“Clean the World has recycled 603,810lbs of soap and amenity waste from our hotels which has helped create more than 1.9 million bars of soap.”

Most of the hotels taking part in the programme are based in North America, but Clean the World has started working with some European hotels. In fact London Heathrow Marriott recently enlisted the services of the organisation.

Other hotels have started introducing their own processes to minimise waste. TheHoxton, which has properties in Shoreditch, Holborn and Amsterdam, told Telegraph Travel that it has done away with individual toiletries.

“We’ve recently switched to using larger shampoo and conditioner dispensers in our rooms, which we refill to reduce waste,” said Alice Tate, Hoxton’s communications manager.

The Marriott has also introduced refillable dispensers at some properties, but guests shouldn’t necessarily be waiting for hotels to make the first move. In fact there’s something simple travellers can do with leftover toiletries that will leave them with clean consciences as well as bodies.

“Take them with you,” said Seipler. “Use them at home or donate them to a homeless shelter.”

 

Baby Boomers Spur Luxury Travel

Baby Boomers are set to account for a rising share of luxury travel as the generation continues to retire, according to new data shared at Virtuoso’s annual Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia.

According to a presentation by keynote speaker Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., CEO of Age Wave, households headed by those 65 years and older have more than 21 times the median wealth of households headed by people under 35.

From a travel perspective, the figures become even more resonant, Virtuoso said. Consumers 50 years of age and over account for 33 percent of the population, yet they are responsible for 51 percent of entertainment expenses, 53 percent of airfare expenditures, 59 percent of lodging expenditures, 70 percent of all disposable income, 74 percent of ship fares, 76 percent of total net worth, and 92 percent of all affluent households. What’s more, those aged 55 and older will soon face time affluence like the world has never experienced, with 2.5 trillion hours of leisure time over the next 20 years.

Dychtwald shared data from the joint Age Wave/Merrill Lynch study his group produced. With plenty of downtime ahead of them, Dychtwald stated that 47 percent of retirees are most excited about their newfound ability to travel. They are in search of peak experiences (48 percent) and adventure (45 percent), with 95 percent of retirees saying they prefer to have more enjoyable experiences than more things. His message to the Virtuoso travel agency executives in the audience: optimize invaluable expertise. Dychtwald said that travel agents are poised to become more important than ever, as they help clients imagine their dreams by reimaging tomorrow’s travel marketplace, and provide an unseen layer of safety and protection during the actual travel experience.

During another keynote presentation Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch built on Age Wave’s research and zeroed in on the scalability of loyalty at a time when interrupting the trust that comes from genuine human connections appears to be the primary driver of so many travel organizations, Virtuoso said. He shared that when the ownership of the coveted client is at stake, scaling loyalty and creating a system that expands while also growing allegiance must be the goal. Success comes from combining both the structural and emotional components of loyalty.

Upchurch talked of the opportunity facing the luxury travel industry, citing the emerging customer base and an IATA statistic showing anticipated air passengers nearly doubling to 7.2 billion by 2035, as well as the growth of the cruise industry and the innumerable niche products. And while there have never been more choices, consumers are looking for someone to simplify their lives as they become even more overwhelmed by information. They are turning to travel advisors to make their lives more secure and fun.

Said Upchurch, “Today we are in the era of exponential choices. We’re swimming in options and there are so many more products. The goal for all of us should be enduring loyalty, which is not to be confused with repeat business. It’s building lifetime connections and lifetime value.”

Continued Upchurch, “There is a legitimate commodity play based on price, convenience and accessibility, but this is not what we in the luxury and experiential business are working to create. Points and cards are everywhere. They’ve become a new currency, which, like real money, can increase and decrease in value. We want to scale enduring loyalty – experiences worth paying for.”

Upchurch went on to say that structural components like mobile apps that register guests provide new conveniences and reward behaviors, but to some degree have created a structural arms race within the industry. However, he pointed out, human beings don’t make decisions solely on facts, points or price. They make choices largely based on emotions, quoting Harvard Business Review’s The New Science of Customer Emotions: “On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied ones.”

Human connection matters and it is this desire that has fueled the growth of travel advisors as a profession. Luxury and experiential customers come with high value and high expectations. Structurally, they want things to be fast, efficient, productive and in the way they like to communicate. They also want the personal touch, and to feel cared for.

Upchurch called on Virtuoso’s partners to elevate and integrate the next phase of the digital revolution, going from a direct-only bias to compensating on the whole. He surmised that scaling loyalty will take a combination of game-changing elements, including synchronizing structural systems like data conformity and providing assets that support travel agencies as they develop their own systems to support their advisors and the many ways they go to market.

Lastly, he concluded by restating that authentic human connections amongst its travel agencies and preferred partners make a notable difference in how his network’s customers experience travel. And the power to scale loyalty begins with the everyday touchpoints that occur before, during and after the trip. The emerging advisory sector will co-create the peak experiences of the future and uncover new opportunities. And the emerging customer, with unprecedented wealth, time and need for powerful experiences, will lead to the sustainability of the travel industry as an economic powerhouse and a force for good.

Viking Ocean Cruises Orders Two New Ships

Viking Ocean Cruises is continuing its run of expansion with an order for two new cruise ships, set to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.

The order is part of a memorandum of agreement the cruise line just signed with Fincantieri. The memo also includes an option for two additional cruise ships.

The new ships will be the same size as the current three ships in the line’s ocean fleet: Viking Sea, Viking Star and Viking Sky, which just made its debut in February. The new ships will have a capacity of 930 passengers in 465 all-balcony cabins, and will be the same design as the line’s current ocean ships.

Designed by the same team responsible for Viking’s fleet of river-going Viking Longships, Viking’s ocean ships incorporate details that pay homage to its Nordic heritage. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer options for al fresco dining; huge windows and skylights let in light; and a wrap-around promenade deck is available for strolling. Dining options range from the World Café, which serves global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; to Mamsen’s Norwegian-style deli. The Chef’s Table celebrates cuisines from around the world with multi-course tasting menus and wine parings; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant serves Tuscan and Roman cuisine. With the Kitchen Table experience, guests have an opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the Executive Chef.

The announcement follows a run of recent expansion for the cruise line. In addition to the February launch of Viking Sky, Viking Ocean Cruises is set to launch its fourth ship, Viking Sun, this November. On the river side, Viking River Cruises just christened two new Longships, Viking Herja and Viking Hild, in Koblenz, Germany, last month. Also coming up for the river cruise line is new cruises on the Nile set for 2018 onboard the Viking Ra.

In terms of onboard experiences, the line just launched a new Viking Resident Historian program onboard the Viking Star, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, aimed at providing guests with an onboard educational experience tailored to their itinerary.