CLIA Re-Introduces Its Certification Programs for Cruise Lines

Traveler's desk with a working computer

WHY IT RATES: CLIA’s certification courses provide a wealth of expert knowledge to deliver valuable education to the industry as a whole. —Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse Senior Writer

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has re-introduced a newly expanded opportunity for cruise line sales teams to leverage CLIA’s industry-leading North American certification programs, earning the equivalent of our existing Accredited Cruise Counsellor (ACC), Master Cruise Counsellor (MCC) or Elite Cruise Counsellor (ECC) certifications, minus the product knowledge component.

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This expanded, more comprehensive approach to CLIA certification for cruise line sales teams has been embraced by CLIA Cruise Lines, with initial participants, including Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Avalon Waterways and Carnival Cruise Line committing to unprecedented adoption within their sales teams.

“CLIA’s dedication to fostering our members’ success is one of the many drivers behind the CLIA Certification for Cruise Lines,” said Stephani E. D. McDow, ECC-s, TAE, director of membership and professional development, CLIA.

“By empowering cruise line teams to undergo the same professional development and certification rigors that our Individual Agent Members experience, we’re providing an opportunity for a more thorough understanding of the investment these outstanding agents have made in themselves, while providing a shared experience that will continue to strengthen the bond between the cruise lines and travel agents.”

CLIA’s professional development and training programs, rated the best in the industry, leverage a wealth of expert knowledge and partnerships to deliver valuable education to travel agents and other industry professionals.

CLIA Cruise Lines that elect to participate in the program can leverage CLIA’s online training to complete certifications, or schedule in-person training featuring CLIA trainers and curriculum.

SOURCE: CLIA press release

White House is Reviewing the Travel Ban to North Korea

The iconic North Korea Worker's Party Monument in Pyongyang, DPRK, represents the three pillars of the Revolution: Workers (hammer), Farmers (sickle), and Intellectuals (brush). The slogan says: “The organizers of the victory of the Korean people and the

Travel to North Korea is a no-go for American citizens right now thanks to a travel ban instituted last year, however, that may soon change.

The White House announced today that they are reviewing travel restrictions to North Korea. They are looking into easing the restrictions to make it easier for humanitarian aid to reach the country, which may facilitate a better relationship with North Korea.

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The U.S. Special Representative to North Korea, Stephen Biegun announced this policy review while in South Korea to discuss nuclear negotiations. He said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to review the travel ban.

“I understand that many humanitarian aid organizations, operating in the DPRK, are concerned that strict enforcement of international sanctions has occasionally impeded the delivery of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Korean people,” Biegun said. He referred to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK.

Biegun was clear that this review would most likely result in allowing certain American travelers to visit Noth Korea: those who are providing aid through humanitarian aid organizations. It doesn’t appear that the travel ban would be revised to allow Americans to visit North Korea for tourism purposes.

“We will also review American citizen travel to DPRK for purposes of facilitating the delivery of aid and ensuring that monitoring in line with international standards can occur,” Biegun said. “I want to be clear — the United States and the United Nations will continue to closely review requests for exemptions and licenses for the delivery of assistance to the DPRK.”

Biegun also mentioned that the White House has “greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans traveling to the DPRK” after North Korea released an American citizen for entering North Korea illegally just last month.

Bruce Byron Lowrance tried to illegally enter North Korea through China in October and was detained by the North Korean government for one month. He claims he entered North Korea under the direction of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Speaking of Lowrance’s release, Biegun said, “The government of the DPRK handled the review of the American citizen’s expulsion expeditiously and with great discretion and sensitivity through diplomatic channels.”

However, not all American citizens who have visited North Korea have returned home unscathed. Otto Warmbier, an American university student, was detained in North Korea for 17 months after convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster. He was released by North Korea last year in a coma and died days later.

It was Warmbier’s case that resulted in the U.S. banning its citizens from traveling to North Korea. His death followed a history of American citizens being detained in North Korea prisons for months or years.

If Biegun makes any changes to the travel ban, it will only be to allow American citizens to travel under the direction of humanitarian aid, so Americans shouldn’t rush to start planning a North Korean vacation, because it’s likely not in the works.

And perhaps that’s a good thing because sometimes traveling isn’t worth it — at least not to a country that the U.S. State Department suggests that travelers “discuss a plan with loved ones regarding…funeral wishes” before visiting.

Top Family Destinations from Villas of Distinction

Casablanca luxury villa in Barbados

Villas of Distinction, a 2019 Travvy Award winner for Best Villa Rental Company, offers travelers one-of-a-kind luxury escapes in the most coveted destinations around the globe.

There’s a unique villa experience to suit every type of traveler and event, whether it’s a family reunion in the Caribbean, corporate retreat in Mexico, girlfriend getaway in Europe or a ski trip to Colorado. You get the idea.

Villas of Distinction has got you covered with unmatched knowledge and experience, the finest properties meeting the strictest standards and exceptional attention to detail to ensure you and your travel companions come away with the perfect experience.

Families eyeing a luxury villa getaway in 2019 should consider one of these destinations.


The Theme Park Capital of the World certainly can’t be beaten when it comes to entertaining families. The list of must-visit attractions includes Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando but definitely doesn’t end there with nearby Gatorland and LEGOLAND Florida also making for worthwhile day trips.

Fortunately, most of Villas of Distinction’s Orlando area villas are located within Reunion Resort and just a few miles from Disney and Central Florida’s other world-class family-friendly attractions.


Families traveling with lots of babies and or toddlers will want to consider a vacation in Jamaica as most properties here feature the conveniences of a full staff, including chef, butler, housekeeper and laundress.

Villa rentals are available throughout the island. Choose from popular tourist destinations such as Montego Bay or Ocho Rios or something in between like Falmouth, Discovery Bay or Runaway Bay.

Turks and Caicos

Beach in Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos is one of the more family-friendly destinations in the Caribbean as it’s just a short flight from Miami. Better yet, travelers to these islands will have nearly 100 luxury villas to choose from.

Guests will have easy access to some of the best beaches, including Grace Bay, as well as opportunities to get up close with nature and wildlife whether snorkeling or whale watching.


Villas of Distinction offers more than 180 villas in nearly three dozen locations throughout Barbados so families of all sizes and ages are sure to find the perfect fit.

Rental options here range from one-bedroom cottages to sprawling, 10-bedroom estates. Plus, similarly to Jamaica, most luxury villas come with the services of a full staff at no extra charge.


Tuscany, winery, vineyards, wine

Large multigenerational groups, in particular, will fall in love with Tuscany, where highlights of many villas include private pools, game rooms, tennis courts and other beloved amenities.

Villas of Distinction’s Borgo Finocchieto Estate can accommodate up to 44 guests while most others offer private space for at least two dozen travelers and are within close proximity to major cities allowing for convenient day trips.

For more information on Villas of Distinctions and their family-friendly villa rentals, contact your travel agent or visit their website here.

State Department Warns Americans About Traveling to China

Ancient Chinese architecture

The US State Department issued a travel advisory today warning Americans to exercise increased caution when visiting China due to what it called arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.

The new advisory notes that “Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using exit bans, sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years.”

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In addition, the State Department claims that China uses exit bans coercively to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad and aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

“In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue,” states the advisory, adding that U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.

U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime, the advisory notes. And U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.”

The State Department also said that China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services.

The new warning is a level-two advisory, which suggests travelers use increased caution. A level-one advisory indicates travelers should exercise normal precautions and a level-three destination advisory suggests Americans reconsider travel altogether.

Albuquerque's Friendly LGBTQ Vibe


Albuquerque is a fascinating and dynamic city, sometimes overlooked by travelers. Similarly, the city is under the radar as a queer destination. But the city and region are very queer-friendly, and there are many reasons why LGBTQ travelers should consider New Mexico’s largest city for their next trip.

According to Mauro Walden-Montoya, President of the Albuquerque LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, the city has been used to diversity since its founding, way back in 1706.


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“With the Native, Spanish and other cultures mixing for so many years, LGBTQ folks have been naturally accepted. It is easy to be LGBTQ in Albuquerque and we are very welcoming to residents and visitors alike,” he said. “New Mexico was the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and Albuquerque welcomed thousands of LGBTQ couples from other states like Texas, Arizona, Colorado and as far away as Virginia who came to get married here.”

Walden-Montoya noted that one hotel welcomed a same-sex male couple from Dallas, who flew in on a Sunday evening to get married. They planned to have the ceremony on Monday and then leave that evening.

“The hotel manager sent them out sightseeing before the minister arrived. When they came back for their wedding, she had gotten them a cake (from an LGBTQ-friendly bakery) and decorated the lobby for their wedding. She and a staff member were their witnesses,” he said.

“They were overwhelmed by the friendliness shown towards them as a gay couple everywhere they went. Albuquerque is a very comfortable place for LGBTQ people—we can walk around holding hands, when we introduce our partners or say we just got married, the reaction is ‘Congratulations!'”

Additionally, Walden-Montoya said that there is so much to do for couples in the city: take a couple’s balloon ride, watch the sunset while riding the Sandia Peak Tramway, eat at a romantic, intimate restaurant, hike to a hot spring, explore ancient Native American pueblos, or visit the ABQ BioPark.

hot air balloon

“We have had sexual orientation and transgender protections since 1993 in the city and since 2003 for the state. Albuquerque is an amazing destination for LGBTQ folks with cuisine, outdoor adventures, nightlife, a great community and one of the longest-running Prides in the country (since 1976),” he said.

What’s more, the city supports diverse organizations such as the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, the Rainbow Roadrunners Car Club, the Transgender Resource Center, ABQ Pride and gay sporting event associations. The city’s LGBTQ film festival, Way Out West, is in its 17th year.

Albuquerque has hosted the Lambda Car Club Grand Invitational, the Gay Pilots Association annual meeting and in 2020 is hosting the yearly conference of the Western Business Alliance (the association of western U.S. LGBTQ chambers of commerce).

“Albuquerque is romantic, affordable, fun, welcoming, and comfortable for LGBTQ folks—and the whole city will say “Bien venidos” to our LGBTQ visitors,” said Walden-Montoya.

Visit Albuquerque has a whole “LGBT friendly” section on its website. According to Brenna Moore, PR & Communications Manager, Visit Albuquerque, that section has been in existence since before any of the current members of the marketing team started working at the bureau.

“We envision that it was a natural outgrowth of the diverse Albuquerque community and the welcoming nature of our culture,” she said. “It became even more important when same-sex marriage was legalized in New Mexico in 2013—ahead of the Supreme Court ruling in 2015. We wanted to have a resource that specifically spoke to LGBTQ travelers about the experiences that awaited them in our destination.”

Moore said that the city does collaborate with the Albuquerque LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce on the LGBTQ section of the visitors’ guide. Additionally, there is a print version offered—and Visit Albuquerque prints 300,000 copies of the guide each year. While the organization doesn’t specifically target its print advertising to the LGBTQ traveler, Moore’s team has advertised to queer audiences via Facebook.

“Albuquerque is a city that continues to celebrate and embrace diversity and works to be an inclusive place to visit and to live,” she said. “LGBTQ travelers will be welcomed to ABQ with open arms!”

Poland Grows in Popularity With 2020 Travelers

Top view of Royal castle and old town crowded with people in Warsaw on the evening (photo via RossHelen / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As words such as “overtourism” begin to appear more frequently in headlines around the world, travelers are looking to alternative destinations, and it looks like Poland is one country that is enjoying the benefits.

Sophia Kulich, the owner of Sophia’s Travel, has seen a spike in business to the country. In fact, the company’s bookings to Poland increased by 45 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, overtaking the Czech Republic as its third-highest destination, and Kulich expects this boom to continue in 2019.

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“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II on September 1, 2019, when Germany invaded Poland. In addition, the country hosts many music, film, and beer festivals taking place throughout the year,” she said.

Heritage is seeing some of the highest demand for Sophia Travel’s clients. The company offers tailored trips for those interested in Catholic and Jewish history.

“We personally research each itinerary to help our travelers discover the towns and sites associated with their family’s past. In addition to visiting historical and cultural areas, we provide a unique emotional journey for our travelers,” said Kulich.

Destinations of particular interest to Kulich’s Jewish clientele are Bialystok, known as the home of the famous Bialy roll. Many clients visit searching for their roots, and the city also offers well-preserved Orthodox churches; Branicki Palace, often referred to as the Polish Versailles; and the Museum of Folk Culture, which showcases the area’s rich tradition.

Four Signature Epcot Festivals Welcome Guests to Disney World in 2019

Epcot, Disney, spaceship earth

WHY IT RATES: Travel agents and advisors booking family trips in 2019 should look into the events offered by Disney’s Epcot this year.—Donald Wood, Breaking News Senior Writer.

Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort celebrates the arts, flowers, food, music, holidays and non-stop family fun throughout the year during four signature theme-park festivals beginning Jan. 18.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts: Jan. 18-Feb. 25

This annual celebration of visual, culinary and performing arts presents 39 fun-packed days showcasing art in many forms for everyone in the family. Food and drinks are created with artistic flair at more than 15 park destinations. The festival’s creative menus feature everything from red wine-braised short ribs with parsnip puree at Cuisine Classique to vanilla, rose water and pistachio panna cotta at Masterpiece Kitchen. Kids of all ages will want to try the Pop’t Art modern-design sugar cookie and other delectable treats.

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In 2019, the festival’s popular Disney on Broadway Concert Series will offer performances every day of the festival. The series presents musical performances from Disney on Broadway shows like “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” and special dining packages guarantee concert seats.

Interactive fun is around every corner. Guests can help paint a mural, pose for a memorable photo in the frame of an iconic piece of art, participate in a workshop, or take a break to watch performance artists in action.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: March 6-June 3

Millions of spring blossoms will transform Epcot into a wonderful world of brilliant color during this 90-day celebration of flowers, topiaries, themed food, libations and music. Now in its 26th year, the festival continues to offer fresh experiences. A new Bo Peep and her Sheep topiary from Disney•Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4” will greet guests at the festival’s new Family Play Zone. Featured gardens will focus on butterflies, bamboo and Shakespeare’s metaphoric plants, while more than 70 Disney-themed topiaries – from Snow White to Daisy Duck – dot the landscape.

New Outdoor Kitchens with their own herb and veggie gardens will debut this year with creative bites and beverages. The Garden Rocks Concert Series expands this year to every day of the festival, offering new and returning acts spanning multiple genres. With three performances daily, that’s 270 concerts over the course of the festival – more than ever before! Returning favorites like The Spinners and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone will be joined by artists new to the festival like TobyMac, Steven Curtis Chapman and Colin Hay of Men at Work.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival: Late Summer/Fall

Disney guests can get their gourmet groove on during this iconic culinary dine-around that will run late summer to November in 2019. More than 30 Festival Marketplaces will offer tempting tastes and sips throughout Epcot. During the festival, the Eat to the Beat Concert Series presents a diverse collection of hitmakers from pop to country to R&B and more. Concert seating is guaranteed for guests who book Eat to the Beat Dining Packages. Guests can also discover new savory and sweet treats by making reservations for the festival’s beverage seminars and specialty dining and pairing events.

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays: Fall/Winter

The annual yuletide extravaganza at Epcot celebrates holiday traditions of World Showcase cultures with live musical productions, spirited storytellers, seasonal lights and décor, delicious holiday treats and more. The beloved, long-running Candlelight Processional invites guests to experience the story of Christmas narrated by a celebrity host to the cherished Christmas music performed by a professional orchestra and full choir. Dining packages offer guaranteed Candlelight seating.

Disney chefs create treasured seasonal dishes to keep palates merry at Holiday Kitchen kiosks surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon. From savories to sweets, from children’s drinks to adult libations, there’s something on the holiday menu for everyone.

For more information, reach out to your local travel agent.

SOURCE: Walt Disney World press release.

United Donated $1 Million to Feed Furloughed Workers

United Airlines planes at Los Angeles International Airport

On Friday, President Trump announced that the United States’ longest government shutdown would temporarily end to alleviate travel industry issues like flight cancellations that arose because of the shutdown.

Even though the government shutdown has been lifted, it doesn’t negate the fact that thousands of workers went without paychecks for over 30 days and still need assistance. This is why United Airlines announced on Friday that they’re donating $1 million to Feeding America’s “Shutdown Response Fund.”

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Feeding America’s “Shutdown Response Fund” is providing food for families of federal employees who didn’t receive paychecks during the shutdown, like TSA and Homeland Security employees.

United Airline CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement, “On behalf of the United family, I would like to thank the countless federal employees who have made a large sacrifice to ensure our safety despite not being paid, and we hope this contribution provides them much-needed support.”

“Even with today’s announcement, there is continued need among federal employees, in addition to the important programs that Feeding America administers.”

He added, “We continue to urge our leaders to work in a bipartisan way over the coming weeks to ensure the long-term certainty on which our industry and the overall economy depends.”

United has been working with Feeding America throughout the shutdown such as by setting up food distribution centers at United’s seven hubs and at LaGuardia Airport.

“Feeding America is thankful to our long-time partner, United Airlines, for stepping up, yet again, to help families in need. Even after the government is re-opened, many hardworking families will likely suffer the lingering impact of this crisis,” Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot said.

Top Travel Technology Leaders Honored at 2019 Travvy Awards

Travel technology.

Travel technology continues to be a fascinating and rapidly evolving space, one in which barely a day goes by without the announcement of an exciting new development designed to improve the overall travel experience.

From apps designed to customize and improve your hotel stay, to new ways of booking travel and sophisticated ways of communicating with travel brands, there appears to be no end in sight when it comes to the possible uses of technology.

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At the 2019 Travvy Awards, the leaders in the travel tech arena were among those who received awards. Technology categories covered everything from Best Car Rental Website to Best Host Agency Website and Best Travel Planning Technology.

Here’s the full list of winners. (Gold winners listed first; Silver winners listed second):

Best Car Rental Website;

Best Host Agency Website;

Best Tour Operator Website

ShoreTrips; Shore Excursions Group

Best Travel Agent Reservations System

VAX VacationAccess; Expedia Travel Agent Affiliate Program

Best Travel Planning Technology

Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations; VAX VacationAccess

Best Travel Technology Provider

Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations; VAX VacationAccess

Disneyland Resort is Throwing a Massive Mickey and Minnie Celebration

Disneyland, California, travel

WHY IT RATES: Travel agents and advisors working with families should consider selling them on Disneyland’s Mickey and Minnie Celebration.—Donald Wood, Breaking News Senior Writer.

Get Your Ears On – A Mickey and Minnie Celebration launches at the Disneyland Resort this month, inviting guests to the biggest celebration of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in Disneyland history. Mickey and Minnie have brought joy to millions of people around the world spanning generations, and guests visiting the Disneyland Resort in 2019 will be encouraged to “Get Your Ears On” and celebrate 90 years of magic with the legendary duo that started it all.

Get Your Ears On will present exciting new ways to celebrate the beloved Mickey and Minnie, with new entertainment and décor at Disneyland Park, plus limited-time food and beverage offerings and festive event merchandise available throughout the resort.

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“Mickey’s Mix Magic”: Beginning Jan. 18, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” will light up the night at Disneyland park with a new high-energy projection show, celebrating the one and only Mickey Mouse. This nightly extravaganza creates a family-fun dance party throughout the park, with “DJ” Mickey spinning the new celebration song, “It’s a Good Time” along with new, fun takes on favorite Disney songs. State-of-the-art projections, lighting and lasers will transform Main Street, U.S.A., the façade of “it’s a small world” and the water screens of the Rivers of America (when “Fantasmic!” returns in March) into a colorful, dazzling display of sights and sounds to celebrate Mickey Mouse. And on select nights, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” will go sky high when the show is enhanced with the addition of fireworks.

“Mickey’s Soundsational Parade”: The popular “Mickey’s Soundsational Parade” returns to Disneyland park starting Jan. 25, with a rockin’ new opening to kick off the party. Mickey leads the way in a new larger-than-life opening, inspired by the classic and nostalgic Mickey pull toys. Next, Chip ‘n’ Dale arrive with a giant celebration cake, as Mickey and his drum corps kick off a whimsical, musical procession of Disney characters.

Valentine’s Month: From Jan. 22-Feb. 18, Disneyland Resort will celebrate the love of Minnie and Mickey for Valentine’s month. As guests enter Disneyland park, they will find a new Mickey Mouse flower “portrait,” and lovely and festive Valentine’s décor all along Main Street, U.S.A. and at Small World Mall. During Valentine’s month, guests may also choose to partake in Minnie’s Valentine Surprise, a special scavenger hunt experience in Disneyland park. Once guests have purchased a commemorative map and stickers at select merchandise locations, they may search for the hidden valentines that Minnie has left for Mickey around the park. Upon completion, they return their map to a designated location to redeem a special Valentine’s surprise.

“Get Your Ears On” Celebration Dance Party: Beginning Jan. 25, the new “Get Your Ears On” Celebration Dance Party will take place each evening at Tomorrowland Terrace in Disneyland park. Guests of all ages will be able to move and groove with some of their favorite Disney characters, dancing to the celebration song, “It’s a Good Time,” along with other popular Disney tunes.

Food, beverage, merchandise and more: For a limited-time during Get Your Ears On, specialty food, beverage, novelty items and merchandise will be available for guests to celebrate the beloved duo in fun, new ways. Throughout the Disneyland Resort, guests will find “classic” Mickey- and Minnie-shaped foods with a new festive twist, exclusive Get Your Ears On themed treats, holiday specialty items for Valentine’s month, and so much more. Additionally, a celebration sipper and new Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse popcorn buckets will make their debut. Plus, new merchandise will be available for all ages, including celebration apparel, pins, plush, and Mickey and Minnie ears. In the Downtown Disney District, PANDORA will debut a limited-edition Disney dangle charm with a 14-karat gold “90,” Dooney & Bourke will feature new Mickey Mouse bags and a special Mickey Through the Years dress will be available at The Disney Dress Shop.

For more information, reach out to your local travel agent.

SOURCE: Disneyland Resort press release.

Frontier Airlines’ Flight Attendants Asking for Tips

Frontier Aircraft (© 2018 FRONTIER Airlines)

Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines is asking passengers to tip their flight attendants following their refreshment service.

According to, Frontier offers passengers the opportunity to leave a tip for their individual server when paying with a card through the airline’s mobile tablet system.

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Previously, tips were split between all attendants working each flight.

As of January 1, the carrier’s 2,200 flight attendants are working to keep their own tips, which in theory should result in better service for passengers. The tablets prompt customers to tip 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent or a custom gratuity.

When asked whether the tips were extra money for attendants or considered a significant part of their earnings, a Frontier spokesperson told JT Genter of, “Both. Many flight attendants see the in-flight tip program as a way to supplement their income.”

“I’ve flown more than 350 flights on 51 different airlines in the past three years, but I’d never experienced an airline ask for a tip,” Genter said.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Slated to Close Indefinitely in 2021

Aerial view of Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort (Courtesy of Sandals)

Sandals Resorts International, the parent company of Beaches Resorts, recently announced to its travel agent partners that it will be closing Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa during certain dates from now through 2021, and possibly much longer.

TravelPulse was able to get our hands on a letter sent to Sandals’ and Beaches’ travel experts, informing them that the popular family hotel will close from September 3 to October 15, 2019; Sept. 7 to Oct. 22, 2020; and, as Stewart mentioned in his post, for an indefinite period starting in January 2021.

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“Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort recently announced several intermittent date closures in 2019, 2020 and for an indefinite period in 2021,” according to a statement issued by Sandals. “It is important to note that this decision has been one of the most difficult we have had to ever make, as we care deeply for this island and hold great affection for the people of Turks and Caicos. We felt it our duty and responsibility to circulate accurate data in regard to this complex issue.

“It is important to note that we do not owe any money in unpaid taxes. We have always fully observed, complied and met our tax obligations on time and to the letter.”

Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, issued a statement to the media, responding to the sudden closure announcements and ensuing speculation about a rift between Sandals and the local government.

Cartwright-Robinson said the issue “has not been a matter of Beaches avoiding taxes or of the former Governments or Ministers of Finances before me intentionally leaving this matter unaddressed. The current matter followed an event/action that occurred in 2017.

“A large amount of work has since been vested towards the conclusion of this matter,” the statement continued. “However, as this matter is active before Cabinet where final positions were agreed and are currently being given effect and certainly before Friday’s publication of the Beaches letter relating to the proposed closures.”

New Global Business Travel Report Forecasts Airfare Stability

Travelers walking together with luggage

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is forecasting that airfares will remain stable in 2019 despite some fluctuations on major routes.

The Air Monitor 2019 report found that fare levels should hold steady on many of the world’s major air routes throughout the year.

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Capacity and competition are two key factors that will keep rates stable in 2019. The report finds that an increase in both of these factors, including new low-cost carriers on long-haul routes will restrain a rise in airfares on key routes from Europe and Asia-Pacific even as fuel costs rise and the economy continues to grow.

While there is evidence for fare stability, current economic and political uncertainties and developments could impact the forecast, and there are some exceptions to the optimistic forecast. Demand for premium-class seats in North America is set to outpace capacity growth, meaning increases in fares for these seats in both North America and Europe.

On the flip side, there is projected to be overcapacity on Middle Eastern routes, meaning fare decreases in both business and economy classes.

“While current global political and economic uncertainties create a challenging environment for price forecasting, it’s important for buyers to access the information and insights that help them drive better value in their air programs,” said Joakim Johansson, vice president of business development, American Express GBT. “For the Air Monitor 2019, we have developed a robust, scientific methodology that combines GBT’s own historical flight transaction data with a wide range of critical metrics that drive supply and demand, shaping pricing conditions.”

Study Shows Traveling Can Help Make Kids Successful in School

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We all know that vacations bring families together, but a recent survey shows that traveling may also help kids to be more successful in school.

The Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) conducted a survey of almost 1,500 U.S. based teachers and discovered that 74 percent of educators believe travel has “a very positive impact on students’ personal development.”

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Fifty-six percent of teachers also believe that traveling can have a positive impact on a student’s education and career.

Children who traveled with their families seemed to also have more tolerance and respectfulness in the classroom, as well as more willing to learn and try new things, according to the teachers surveyed.

Educators even witnessed how travel affects a student’s personality in the classroom and playground. Everything from higher independence and improved self-esteem, confidence, adaptability, sensitivity, and self-expression were noted by teachers.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all families have the financial means to travel, but even traveling within one’s city to explore museums or culturally-focused events can inspire children and improve their personality at school.

According to 76 percent of teachers, it just takes one trip to really make kids fall in love with travel and want to travel more.

So pack the bags and hop in the car or on a plane in 2019 and watch how your kids improve in school with a family vacation.

Cruise Line Offers Free Buffet to Federal Employees

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We are currently in the longest government shutdown in history, and while many in the travel industry are pressuring lawmakers to end the shutdown, some are offering a helping hand in the meantime.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is providing a free lunch buffet and an afternoon of fun for federal workers aboard one of their ships between January 21 and January 31 (unless the shutdown ends before that time).

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The only days the deal is not available are Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26.

Unfortunately, not every federal worker in the U.S. will be able to take advantage of the deal, since the participating ships, the Grand Celebration and the Grand Classica, are located at the Port of Palm Beach at 1 East 11th Street in Riviera, Florida.

To join in, federal workers just have to make a reservation with the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Customer service desk at 800-374-4363. When they arrive at the pier, they’ll need to provide their federal ID at the visitor check-in.

While it doesn’t make up entirely for a lack of a paycheck, those who take advantage of the deal will enjoy a filling lunch and an afternoon aboard a Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line ship which may just be enough to escape from the government shutdown nightmare for a few hours.

Avalanche Strikes Hotel in the Swiss Alps, Injuring Guests

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An avalanche injured several people when it crashed into a hotel in Switzerland on Thursday afternoon.

According to The Local, the snowslide hit the restaurant of the Hotel Säntis in Schwägalp in the Swiss Alps around 4:30 p.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET).

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Authorities reported that multiple people required medical treatment as a result and that police and rescue services were turning their attention to searching for people who might be missing in the aftermath.

An unidentified eyewitness told the regional daily newspaper St. Galler Tagblatt that he and his wife were seated by a window in the hotel restaurant when snow began swirling.

“Then there was a huge noise and snow piled into the back of the restaurant,” he said, adding that there were only a few people inside when the avalanche struck.

The man said one person suffered an arm injury while another had to be dug out of the snow.

The Alps in eastern Switzerland where Hotel Säntis is located have experienced anywhere from 20 to 35 inches of snow over the past three days, The Local reported, citing the SRF Meteo.

Winter Storm Gia Hampers Travel With Road Closures, Flight Delays

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Update: January 14, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. ET

Winter Storm Gia forced approximately 1,500 flight cancellations across the U.S. over the weekend but those issues are beginning to clear up Monday morning, with flight-tracking website reporting just 170 cancellations and 450 delays within, into or out of the U.S. as of 9:30 a.m. ET.

A majority of those headaches are being felt in the Washington, D.C. area, with Reagan National and Washington Dulles airports combining for 82 flight cancellations.

Winter Storm Gia is causing travel headaches from the Midwest to the Northeast U.S. this weekend, dumping snow and ice on roads and runways.

Gia walloped parts of the Midwest Friday and Saturday, causing nearly 500 car accidents in Missouri alone, according to The storm even caused an American Airlines flight to slide off of the runway at Missouri’s Columbia Regional Airport Friday. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

A Delta Air Lines flight also skidded off the runway at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport Sunday. WKRC reported the plane was taxiing between locations within the airport boundaries when it slid off the pavement. There were no injuries.

According to flight-tracking website, more than 3,300 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were delayed Saturday while 460-plus were canceled. A majority of those disruptions occurred at major Midwest airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare and St. Louis Lambert.

As of 10 a.m. ET Sunday, more than 540 flights within, into or out of the U.S. have been canceled, with cancellations and delays stacking up at Reagan National, Washington Dulles and Baltimore-Washington, among other major airports across the Northeast.

Major airlines waived change fees in anticipation of Gia but the details vary from carrier to carrier so travelers are advised to check with their airline and confirm their flight status before arriving at the airport.

The storm is currently bearing down on the mid-Atlantic and expected to last through the weekend with flight delays and cancellations likely to linger into Monday as a result.

San Diego Tourism Authority Launches $19 Million Campaign

Downtown of San Diego, California.

San Diego is hoping to give travelers something to smile about.

The destination’s tourism authority has just launched a $19 million, multi-platform, international advertising campaign.

Focused on the theme of “Something to Smile About,” the ads will target consumers in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada and also the United States and will build on past campaigns such as “Happiness is Calling” and “Summer Feeling.”

The new campaign includes three television commercials, one that highlights San Diego’s overall vibe; a second showcasing San Diego’s family offerings and a third spot dedicated to the Mexico market.

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The campaign also features a variety of activities available in San Diego from surfing to hiking and biking.

“Our new campaign showcases what San Diego does best, putting smiles on the faces of visitors,” said Joe Terzi, president, and CEO of the tourism authority said. “It celebrates San Diego’s distinct sunny outlook, which is universally liked by consumers and most importantly, drives visitors to our city, generating tax revenue and creating jobs for San Diegans.”

The international digital advertising will target Mexico travelers from now through March. The money will be used in the UK to place outdoor billboard, social media and search engine advertisements.

The domestic television spots will focus on such markets as San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Boston, and Minneapolis.

Tourism is the second largest segment of San Diego’s economy and employs approximately 194,000 people. In 2017, 35 million people visited San Diego. According to preliminary figures just released by the SDTA, in 2018, San Diego attracted 35.8 million visitors who spent $11.3 billion at local attractions, restaurants, and shops, resulting in a total economic impact of $18.6 billion.

Runaway Cruise Ship Strikes New York Bridges

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After being dislodged from their moorings by heavy ice sheets, eight vessels, including a cruise ship and a restaurant barge, hit a few bridges on the Hudson River in New York.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation tweeted: “Heavy ice flows on the #HudsonRiver caused by recent warming and heavy rains dislodged 8 vessels from their docks early this morning. DEC, state and local officials quickly responded and secured the vessels.”

Cruise Liner Captain JP, a few tugboats, a restaurant barge called the Rusty Anchor, and a few other barges were among the vessels that drifted down the Hudson River.

Captain JP struck the Congress Street Bridge and then wedged itself against the Livingston Avenue bridge in Albany. It was dislodged by tugboats and then towed up the Hudson. The Rusty Anchor and other boats were secured at the Port of Albany.

Police closed the Congress Street Bridge, Troy Menands Bridge, the Patroon Island Bridge, and the Dunn Memorial Bridge temporarily on Friday as crews worked to secure the vessels.

Though no injuries were reported, with the shutdown of five bridges, commuters saw a bit of a delay.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality Talks LGBTQ Marketing

Aqua-Aston Hospitality plays an active role in supporting the LGBTQ community. (Photo by Paul Heney)

Aqua-Aston Hospitality (AAH) has a variety of hotel properties and condominiums in warm vacation destinations: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, the Big Island, Orlando, and Costa Rica.

The company has also played an active role in supporting the LGBTQ community by including messaging of inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity into all of its marketing materials, brand messaging, special packages and exclusive deals.


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Additionally, AAH is approved by the Travel Advocacy Group (TAG), which recognizes hotels with LGBT-friendly policies and services and is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), supporting community events including Gay Pride Festival, the Rainbow Film Festival, Equality Hawaii, GLAAD and the Hawaii Conference on LGBT Tourism & Hospitality.

We recently spoke with Ed Skapinok, senior vice president of sales, marketing and revenue at Aqua-Aston Hospitality about the company’s inclusive culture and outlook. Skapinok has more than 30 years in hospitality with expertise spanning global operators and independent properties. Prior to joining AAH early last year, he spent six years as vice president of sales and marketing at Hostmark Hospitality Group in Schaumburg, Ill., overseeing a portfolio of 50 full- and select-service hotels, resorts, restaurants, and spas. He currently serves as chairman on the sales advisory board for prominent hotel industry organization, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International.

TP: Your brand has some great messages of inclusivity on its website. How important is the LGBTQ traveler to Aqua-Aston Hospitality, and why?

ES: Our Corporate Social Responsibility promise upholds our commitment to doing good for the Hawaii community by advocating for our host culture and values of tolerance, equality, and diversity. Aqua-Aston Hospitality offers hotels for all types of travelers and preferences. As a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community, we market to the community with the same drive and fervor as we would for any other community that our guests are a part of.

TP: Do you do any specific marketing to queer travelers? Where and how? Have you put together any special package deals aimed toward this market?

ES: The messaging of inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity is reiterated in all our marketing materials, brand messaging, special packages and exclusive discounts, branded content and call-to-action initiatives. To further promote our hotels as an LGBTQ-friendly brand, Aqua-Aston offers packages that specifically celebrate the community. Examples of current and past packages include “Out and Proud” and “Free to Be” in celebration of marriage equality, which was legalized in Hawaii in 2014.

We focus on pushing out messaging and ads that reflect overall inclusivity and avoid explicitly gay markers or signals. Our strategy remains consistent with promotional materials in both mainstream and gay media.

TP: How does Aqua-Aston train guest-facing employees to understand the needs of LGBTQ guests?

ES: Internally, Aqua-Aston Hospitality ensures that a culture of inclusivity remains a staple of the company’s foundation and is upheld across the entire organization, including regular internal LGBTQ sensitivity trainings. Implementing these types of employee trainings, combined with a proactive presence within the LGBTQ community, has positioned Aqua-Aston as a best-in-class employer.

TP: With same-sex marriage being legal in all 50 states, there’s been an expectation of an uptick for weddings and honeymoons in Hawaii for this traveler segment. What have you seen at your properties there?

ES: After Hawaii legalized marriage equality in 2014, the state saw an incredible 408% rise in the number of same-sex marriages. Most recently in 2017, it was reported that approximately 7.8% of all marriages in Hawaii were same-sex. Aqua-Aston properties remain sought-after destinations for weddings, honeymoons and anniversary celebrations, offering unique packages including the “Rainbow Romance” honeymoon package, that cater to same-sex couples.

TP: What mistakes do you think other hotel chains or tourism companies make when marketing to LGBTQ travelers?

ES: The hotel brands and tourism companies that do not make a concerted, dedicated effort to cater to the LGBTQ community of travelers and promote acceptance of all to these destinations, are at a disadvantage. The Millennial generation of travelers — who continue to influence key travel trends — have grown up with LGBTQ equality, tolerance and acceptance of diversity, and expect these values to translate over into the travel and hospitality industries.

TP: Have any of your properties worked with any local LGBTQ organizations in any interesting ways?

ES: In addition to traditional marketing advertisements and unique hotel stay packages celebrating the LGBTQ community, new marriages, unions and honeymoons, Aqua-Aston Hospitality plays an active role in supporting local and international associations and events. We support community events including Gay Pride Festival, the Rainbow Film Festival, Equality Hawaii, GLAAD and the Hawaii Conference on LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality, among others. We even hosted Hawaii’s first LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality Symposium in 2015.