Travel Agents Believe 2019 Will Bring a Boom in Business

Traveler's desk with a working computer

It’s shaping up to be a banner year for the travel business. If you are a travel agent, presumably you are betting on your clients increased wealth and social media channels to inspire them to book more vacations this year.

Research from global marketing communications firm Strategic Vision shows that 44 percent of companies surveyed in their annual Pulse of the Industry Survey indicated that their clients are optimistic about international travel, and 54 percent are optimistic about domestic travel. This is a major jump from last year, during which just 19 percent of respondents were optimistic about international travel and 29 percent for domestic.

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In fact, this year, very few people are cautious about traveling internationally, just 16 percent.

For luxury travel firms that cater to these travel advisors, this means 2019 could be one for the record books.

“The luxury travel industry is poised for yet another banner year in 2019,” says Peter Bates, president and founder of Strategic Vision, which services the luxury travel and lifestyle industries. “Travel and tourism is already the world’s largest industry—contributing $8.3 trillion to the global economy—and it continues to grow. The combination of social media, affordable flights, greater wealth, and globalization have created a new Age of Exploration. Of course, I should add, as a cautionary note, that in today’s political and economic climate, conditions can change quickly and unpredictably.”

Clients’ financial standings are one of the main factors buoying the industry. More than half of those surveyed indicated that the continued strength of the economy has led to more disposable income. However, high consumer confidence is also boosted by an increased determination to see the world.

“Our clients are always going to travel,” says Lia Bakin, Co-Founder of In The Know Experiences. “Politics, weather, terrorism… it’s all a part of everyday life now. People want to live life and enjoy themselves.”

The idea that clients are determined to travel is good news for destinations around the world but especially those that have been affected by recent tourism challenges, putting them on track to see major comebacks.

There was a significant drop in travel to the Caribbean last year as the region recovered from multiple hurricanes but the future looks brighter. Survey results show that 68 percent of respondents said that clients have planned or are planning a trip. Just 22 percent of those surveyed said that their clients were waiting for specific islands or resorts to recover.

Concerns about Zika have also subsided. Only only 2 percent of respondents said that the virus kept clients from booking Caribbean vacations. In last year’s survey, that number reached 10 percent.

In terms of what trips travelers are looking for in 2019, experiential travel ranks high among clients as does cruising.

When it comes to where travelers want to go, Italy remains at the top of the heap, even when other emerging destinations gain steam.

Panoramic view of Amalfi and harbor, Italy, Europe

“Italy remains untouchable,” says Kimberly Wilson Wetty, Co-Owner & Co-President of Valerie Wilson Travel. “Whether a first trip or your 20th, everyone always wants Italy. There is comfort in the consistency of what Italy offers from the great food and wine to amazing hotels and sightseeing, as well as the romance of the Italian people and culture.”

Other trending destinations, which fall in line with other surveys, include Japan, which is hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. Namibia, Botswana, and gorilla- trekking regions like Rwanda are popular in Africa and Egypt is making a comeback. Ireland, like Italy, is a safe destination that traveler enjoy over and over again, and Southeast Asia remains popular for its value and is front-of-mind once again after the soaring popularity of the film “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Also still topping travelers’ bucket lists is Iceland.

“Runaway success shows with Iceland as a backdrop such as ‘Game of Thrones’ created a buzz and an awareness among travelers everywhere. Social media hummed with increased awareness and interest in Iceland and its culture,” says Bell de Souza, vice president and COO of Mansour Travel Company.

5 Fun Destinations From American Airlines Vacations

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Waturi Beach at Universal Orlando Volcano Bay

More Fun in 2019

Whether you’re a travel agent or a traveler, you stand to gain from knowing about American Airlines Vacations (AAV). AAV not only puts agents front and center with its online booking site and exclusive benefits but saves travelers in a variety of ways, including through hotel deals, bonus miles rewards and more.

Taxi Drivers Protesting Ride-Hailing Services in Madrid

Madrid, Spain

Taxi drivers in Madrid staged a protest Monday that had to be broken up by police as they continue to fight against the expansion of app-based ride-hailing services like Uber.

According to The Associated Press, Spanish police announced there had been no arrests or significant clashes with protesting taxi drivers who blocked a main road in Madrid, despite journalists on the scene reporting tense interactions.

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Taxi drivers taking part in the strikes are pushing for the local government in Madrid to impose tighter regulations for the ride-hailing services, such as those imposed on the app-based rides in Barcelona.

As a result of the challenge, companies such as Uber and Cabify have threatened to pull out of Madrid and take an estimated 3,500 jobs with them. Drivers working for the ride-hailing services are also protesting, but they are arguing against the proposed regulations.

The protests from taxi drivers have lasted a week and moved from the city outskirts to Castellana Avenue over the weekend. The demonstrations caused traffic delays Monday until police cleared the road.

Once asked to leave Castellana Avenue, the protestors wearing yellow vests moved their strike to the headquarters of the conservative party ruling the Madrid region.

2019 Travvy Awards Honors the Best and Brightest in Travel Industry

2019 Travvy Awards, Gotham Hall, New York City

TravAlliancemedia is kicking off the New Year honoring the travel industry’s best and brightest. The fifth annual Travvy Awards took place on January 23, 2019, at Gotham Hall in New York City.

Hosted by travAlliancemedia and sponsored by Allianz as well as ShoreTrips, Hotel Xcaret Mexico, La Coleccion and the Jamaica Tourism Board, receiving an award at the high-caliber ceremony is considered one of the top honors in the travel industry.

Nearly 280 awards were handed out at this year’s ceremony, honoring the top travel companies delivering the highest quality experiences in 139 categories that include destinations, hotels and resorts, cruise lines and tour operators.

“The Travvy’s are the Oscars of the travel industry,” travAlliancemedia President and CEO Mark Murphy said. “This year, a record number of votes were cast to honor the best of the best in travel. Travel agents—the people who actively book and provide insight to millions of travelers every year—are the ones who cast the votes, helping set the Travvy’s apart from every other award.”

What sets the Travvys apart from other industry awards is that the winners are selected by working travel agents who have direct knowledge about each and every category, company and organization nominated. This year, more than 130,000 votes were cast.

Murphy also noted that the Travvys are unique for another reason.

“The Travvys are also the only award that’s been featured on tv every year since inception, immediately making consumers aware of many of the winners,” he said.

RANGE a cappella was once again the featured entertainment after their performance brought down the house at last year’s awards.

From Best Destination to Best Cruise Line, Best Tour Operator and more, you can find a complete list of this year’s winners below:

BEST AIRLINE CONSOLIDATOR OVERALL

Centrav (Gold); Sky Bird Travel & Tours (Silver)

CAR RENTALS

Best Car Rentals – Overall: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Gold); Auto Europe (Silver)

Best Car Rentals – Domestic: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Gold); Avis (Silver)

Best Car Rentals – International: Auto Europe (Gold); Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Silver)

Best Car Rentals – Luxury/Exotic Fleet: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Gold); Auto Europe (Silver)

Best Chauffeured Services – Overall: Carey International, Inc. (Gold); Empire Limousine (Silver)

Best Chauffeured Services – Domestic: Carey International, Inc. (Gold); Empire Limousine (Silver)

Best Chauffeured Services – International: Carey International, Inc. (Gold); Blacklane (Silver)

Best Car Rental Website: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Gold); Auto Europe (Silver)

HOTELS

Best All-Inclusive – Overall: UNICO 20 87 Hotel Riviera Maya (Gold); The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun and Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya (TIED for Silver)

Best Hotel Chain – All-Inclusive: Hyatt Ziva & Hyatt Zilara (Gold); Karisma Hotels & Resorts and All Inclusive Collection Hard Rock Hotels (TIED for Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Adult/Couples Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Sandals Montego Bay (Gold); Sanctuary Cap Cana (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Adult/Couples Resort – Mexico: Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancun (Gold); Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun (Silver)

Best Hotel Chain – Mid-Market: Hyatt Hotels & Resorts (Gold); Hilton Hotels (Silver)

Best Individual Hotel – Overall: Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui (Gold); Eden Roc Miami Beach Resort (Silver)

Best Spa & Wellness Hotel/Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Sanctuary Cap Cana (Gold); Moon Palace Jamaica (Silver)

Best Spa & Wellness Hotel/Resort – Europe: Villa Eden Hotel & Spa Merano, Italy (Gold); Hard Rock Hotel Davos (Silver)

Best Spa & Wellness Hotel/Resort – Mexico: Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Gold); Hyatt Zilara Cancun (Silver)

Best Spa & Wellness Resort – Domestic: Canyon Ranch Tucson (Gold); Nobu Hotel Miami Beach (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Family Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Beaches Negril Resort & Spa (Gold); Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Family Resort – Mexico: Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa (Gold); Hotel Xcaret Mexico (Silver)

Best Family Hotel/Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana (Gold); Beaches Negril Resort & Spa (Silver)

Best Family Hotel/Resort – Central & South America: Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica (Gold); Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica (Silver)

Best Family Hotel/Resort – Europe: Barceló Castillo Beach Resort Fuerteventura, Spain (Gold); Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife, Spain (Silver)

Best Family Hotel/Resort – Mexico: Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa (Gold); Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma (Silver)

Best Family Hotel/Resort – U.S./Canada: Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach (Gold); The Diplomat Beach Resort (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Luxury Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Sandals Royal Barbados (Gold); Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort, Spa & Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado and RIU Palace Jamaica (TIED for Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Luxury Resort – Mexico: Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya (Gold); UNICO 20 87 Hotel Riviera Maya (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Resort – Spa & Wellness: El Dorado Maroma, by Karisma (Gold); UNICO 20 87 Hotel Riviera Maya (Silver)

Best Luxury Hotel/Resort – Caribbean/Bahamas: Sanctuary Cap Cana (Gold); Azul Beach Resort Negril (Silver)

Best Luxury Hotel/Resort – Central & South America: Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Gold); Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort (Silver)

Best Luxury Hotel/Resort – Mexico: UNICO 20 87 Hotel Riviera Maya (Gold); Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya (Silver)

Best Luxury Hotel/Resort – U.S./Canada: Four Seasons New York City (Gold); Nobu Hotel Miami Beach (Silver)

Best Boutique Hotel – Overall: Jade Mountain, St. Lucia (Gold); Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel (Silver)

Best Boutique Hotel – Mexico: Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya (Gold); Blue Diamond Luxury Boutique Hotel (Silver)

Best Hotel Chain – Boutique: Kimpton Hotels (Gold); TRYP by Wyndham (Silver)

DESTINATIONS

Best Destination – Overall: Australia (Gold); Barbados (Silver)

Best City Destination – U.S./Canada: New York City (Gold); Las Vegas (Silver)

Best Cruise Destination – Caribbean/Bahamas: Aruba (Gold); Cayman Islands (Silver)

Best Culinary Destination – Caribbean/Bahamas: Jamaica (Gold); Aruba (Silver)

Best Culinary Destination – Mexico: Cancun/Riviera Maya (Gold); Los Cabos (Silver)

Best European Destination: Greece (Gold); England and Croatia (TIED for Silver)

Best Luxury Destination – Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: The Islands of Tahiti (Gold); New Zealand (Silver)

Best Luxury Destination – Mexico: Cancun/Riviera Maya (Gold); Los Cabos (Silver)

Best Wine Destination – Europe: Italy (Gold); France (Silver)

CRUISE LINES

Best Cruise Line – Overall: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Alaska: Princess Cruises (Gold); Holland America Line (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Asia: Azamara Club Cruises (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: Paul Gauguin Cruises (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Caribbean/Bahamas: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Norwegian Cruise Line (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Central & South America: Holland America Line (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Europe: Viking Ocean Cruises (Gold); Azamara Club Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Hawaii: Norwegian Cruise Line (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – U.S./Canada: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Contemporary: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Norwegian Cruise Line (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Expedition/Adventure: Seabourn (Gold); Hurtigruten (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Family: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Carnival Cruise Line (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Luxury: Crystal Cruises (Gold); Regent Seven Seas Cruises (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – Premium: Princess Cruises (Gold); Holland America Line (Silver)

Best Cruise Line Website: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Princess Cruises (Silver)

Cruise Entertainment: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Norwegian Cruise Line (Silver)

Special Needs: Holland America Line (Gold); Carnival Cruise Line (Silver)

Best River Cruise Line – Overall: AmaWaterways (Gold); Viking River Cruises (Silver)

Best River Cruise Line – Africa/Egypt: AmaWaterways (Gold); Viking River Cruises (Silver)

Best River Cruise Line – Asia: AmaWaterways (Gold); Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours (Silver)

Best River Cruise Line – Europe: AmaWaterways (Gold); Viking River Cruises (Silver)

Best River Cruise Line – U.S.: American Queen Steamboat Company (Gold); American Cruise Lines (Silver)

CRUISE SHIPS

Best Cruise Ship – Overall: Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas (Gold); Crystal Serenity and Carnival Vista (TIED for Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – Contemporary: Norwegian Bliss (Gold); Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas (Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – Large: Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas (Gold); Norwegian Bliss (Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – Luxury: Cunard Queen Mary 2 (Gold); Crystal Symphony (Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – Mid-Size: Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam (Gold); Viking Sun (Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – Premium: Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam (Gold); Seabourn Ovation (Silver)

Best Cruise Ship – River Cruise: Amawaterways- AmaLea (2018) (Gold); Viking Longship (Silver)

TOUR OPERATORS

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Overall: Trafalgar (Gold); Abercrombie & Kent and G Adventures (TIED for Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Adventure/Expedition: G Adventures (Gold); International Expeditions (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Africa: Abercrombie & Kent (Gold); Micato Safaris (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Asia: Trafalgar (Gold); Kensington Tours (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: Trafalgar (Gold); G Adventures (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Europe: Globus (Gold); CIE Tours International (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Family: Globus (Gold); Collette (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Luxury: Abercrombie & Kent (Gold); Kensington Tours (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Mexico, South & Central America: G Adventures (Gold); Trafalgar (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – U.S./Canada: Globus (Gold); Trafalgar (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – Premium: Trafalgar (Gold); Insight Vacations (Silver)

Best Shore Excursions: ShoreTrips (Gold); Shore Excursions Group (Silver)

Best Tour Guides: Trafalgar (Gold); Abercrombie & Kent (Silver)

Best Tour Reservation Team: Trafalgar (Gold); ShoreTrips (Silver)

Best Tour Operator Website: ShoreTrips (Gold); Shore Excursions Group (Silver)

VACATION PACKAGES

Best Vacation Packager – Overall: Funjet Vacations (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Africa: African Travel, Inc. (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Asia: Travel Impressions (Gold); Chinatour.com International (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: Goway Travel (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Caribbean: Funjet Vacations (Gold); Apple Vacations (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Europe: Travel Impressions (Gold); Europe Express (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Family: Funjet Vacations (Gold); Delta Vacations (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Hawaii: Blue Sky Tours (Gold); Funjet Vacations and Travel Impressions (TIED for Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Luxury: Villas of Distinction (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Mexico: Funjet Vacations (Gold); Apple Vacations (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – Premium: Delta Vacations (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – U.S./Canada: Funjet Vacations (Gold); Travel Impressions (Silver)

LGBTQ

Best LGBTQ Destination – Domestic: San Francisco (Gold); Fort Lauderdale (Silver)

Best Cruise Line – LGBTQ: Royal Caribbean International (Gold); Holland America Line (Silver)

Best Escorted Tour Operator – LGBTQ: Brendan Vacations (Gold); OUT Adventures (Silver)

Best Vacation Packager – LGBTQ: Brendan Vacations (Gold); Olivia Travel (Silver)

WEDDINGS & HONEYMOONS

Best Wedding Destination – Caribbean/Bahamas: Jamaica (Gold); Aruba (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Destination – Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: The Islands of Tahiti (Gold); Fiji (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Destination – Caribbean/Bahamas: Jamaica (Gold); Barbados (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Destination – Mexico: Cancun/Riviera Maya (Gold); Riviera Nayarit (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Destination – U.S./Canada: Miami Beach (Gold); Vancouver, British Columbia (Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Resort – Destination Weddings: Sandals Grande Antigua (Gold); Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya and Moon Palace Cancun (TIED for Silver)

Best All-Inclusive Resort – Honeymoons: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun (Gold); Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall (Silver)

Best Destination Wedding Hotel/Resort – Europe: Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife (Gold); Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa (Silver)

Best Destination Wedding Hotel/Resort – Hawaii: Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui (Gold); Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach (Silver)

Best Destination Wedding Hotel/Resort – Mexico: Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun (Gold); Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Resort & Spa (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Hotel/Resort – Europe: Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo, Monaco (Gold); Hotel Botanico & The Oriental Spa Garden Tenerife, Spain (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Hotel/Resort – Hawaii: Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Gold); Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui (Silver)

Best Honeymoon Hotel/Resort – Mexico: El Dorado Maroma, by Karisma (Gold); Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (Silver)

THEME PARK

Best Theme Park – Overall: Universal Orlando (Gold); Disneyland (Silver)

Best Water Park – International: Atlantis, Paradise Island (Gold); Experiencias Xcaret (Silver)

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Best Travel Insurance Provider – Overall: Allianz Global Assistance (Gold); AIG Travel (Silver)

TOURISM BOARDS

Best Tourism Board – Overall: Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (Gold); Tourism Australia (Silver)

Best Tourism Board – Africa: South African Tourism (Gold); Ministry of Tourism of Morocco (Silver)

Best Tourism Board – Caribbean/Bahamas: Jamaica Tourist Board (Gold); Aruba Tourism Authority (Silver)

Best Tourism Board – Europe: Switzerland Tourism (Gold); Croatian National Tourist Board (Silver)

Best Tourism Board – U.S./Canada: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (Gold); Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority (Silver)

TRAVEL AGENCIES & TECHNOLOGY

Best Host Agency: Avoya Travel (Gold); Nexion Travel Group (Silver)

Best Host Agency Website: AvoyaTravel.com (Gold); Nexion.com (Silver)

Best Retail Travel Agency: World Travel Holdings (Gold); International Voyager (Silver)

Best Travel Agency Consortium Cooperative or Franchise Group: CruiseOne/Dream Vacations (Gold); Cruise Planners (Silver)

Best Travel Agent Reservations System: VAX VacationAccess (Gold); Expedia Travel Agent Affiliate Program (Silver)

Best Travel Planning Technology: Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations (Gold); VAX VacationAccess and Cruise Planners (TIED for Silver)

Best Travel Technology Provider: Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations (Gold); VAX VacationAccess (Silver)

RAIL TRAVEL

Best Rail Travel Company: Rail Europe (Gold); Amtrak Vacations (Silver)

Best Rail Experience Worldwide: Rocky Mountaineer (Gold); Amtrak Vacations (Silver)

Best Rail Experience North America: Rocky Mountaineer (Gold); Amtrak Vacations (Silver)

BEST VILLA RENTAL COMPANY OVERALL

Villas of Distinction (Gold); Hosted Villas (Silver)

To congratulate the winners and find out additional details about the event along with real-time photos, follow TravelPulse on social media and use the hashtag #Travvys2019.

American Killed in Terrorist Attack on Kenyan Hotel

Cityscape of Nairobi, capital city of Kenya.

Update: January 15, 2019 at 7:50 a.m. ET

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said at least 14 people were killed in Tuesday’s attack on the DusitD2 hotel complex, including an American working in Nairobi.

According to The Associated Press, security forces in Kenya announced that all buildings within the complex had been secured and all of the attackers were dead. The United States Department of State confirmed an American had been killed.

A report from ABCNews.com revealed the U.S. citizen killed was 40-year-old Jason Spindler, the founder and managing director I-DEV International, a San Francisco-based strategy and investment advisory firm.


Update: January 15, 2019 at 3:45 p.m. ET

Local news outlets are reporting at least five people were killed and at least 15 have been injured in the terrorist attack on the DusitD2 hotel complex, but Kenyan Special Forces have managed to secure most of the buildings in the area.

One suspect was in custody and the remaining assailants were still inside Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive complex.

According to the New York Times, one of the attackers was a suicide bomber who detonated an explosion in the lobby of the seven-story hotel, while an unspecified number of other extremists with grenades and guns attacked people inside.


Update: January 15, 2019 at 11:15 a.m. ET

The Somalia-based extremist group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack on a luxury hotel in Nairobi on Tuesday. The group says its members were still fighting at the hotel complex, which included bars, restaurants, banks and offices.

According to The Associated Press, several people have been transported from the scene via ambulance, but no further information was provided about possible injuries or deaths. Witnesses claim to have seen at least two bodies.

Al-Shabab was also the terrorist group that took credit for the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, just a short distance from the DusitD2 hotel. In the previous attack, extremists killed 67 people in a days-long siege.


A hotel complex located in in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi was attacked Tuesday.

According to BBC.com, witnesses claim at least two explosions were heard near the complex in the Westland district of Nairobi, which is the site of the Dusit hotel and several office buildings.

Four armed men were seen entering the complex and shots were reported.

Local authorities arrived on the scene to find cars in the parking lot on fire. Police have also closed and evacuated people from the surrounding area and are working to rescue those left inside the complex.

The leader of Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal investigations George Kinoti was at the scene to lead the operation.

“I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives,” a witness nearby told Reuters.

This is a breaking story and updates will be provided as news surfaces.

2019's Delicious Disney Chef Series Is Coming Soon

The Interior of Markham’s at Golden Oak, Walt Disney World

When people think of Walt Disney World and what they might have for meals, a few typical theme park foods probably come to mind, including things like turkey legs, burgers and corn dogs. But guests traveling to Walt Disney World in 2019 can indulge in a culinary experience unlike any other with the Delicious Disney Chef Series – Storytelling with Food, starting January 28.

These curated dinners will be hosted monthly by award-winning chefs from across various Walt Disney World table service restaurant locations. Each month, chefs will create a meal that falls in line with a current theme, and each meal will be accompanied by a selection of wine from around the world.

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Each Chef Series dinner will take place at Markham’s at Disney’s Golden Oak, a private community located on Walt Disney World property near the Magic Kingdom. This beautiful restaurant is filled with plush seating and dark wood accents for a cozy feel.

The first three dates and themes of the Delicious Disney Chef Series have been announced, with the rest of the year’s dates hopefully coming soon. The full menu won’t be revealed to guests before the dinner, but it’s sure to be a phenomenal culinary experience.

—With a theme of ‘Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Sleeping Beauty,’ the first dinner will take place on January 28 and feature Chef Dominique Filoni from Cítricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

—’A Salute to Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World” 55th Anniversary: A Tasting of the Many Lands of the Small World’ will be the dinner’s second theme, taking place February 25 and featuring Chef Timothy Majoras from Flying Fish at Disney’s BoardWalk

—The third dinner will take place March 25 with a theme of ‘A Fantasy Culinary Adventure of DUMBO’ and feature Chef Michael Rodriguez from Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.

This culinary event is perfect for an upscale date night for those couples that enjoy fine dining, dining with a twist or limited edition or exclusive events. The Delicious Disney Chef Series would also be a great experience for those traveling to Walt Disney World that are interested in an elevated dining experience rather than the typical theme park faire.

With chefs from some of Walt Disney World’s well-known restaurants, guests are truly in for a treat. These meals are quickly becoming a Disney bucket list item and seats go quickly.

For more information or to make reservations, guests call 407-939-5773 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

2018’s Top Business Travel Destinations

Manhattan Bridge New York City Skyline. (photo by: sansara/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

After a global study, Egencia flight data confirmed that New York is the most popular business travel destination globally. The Big Apple is followed by London and Paris.

London hasn’t held the top spot since 2014 and Paris, is solidifying its spot as a business travel hub with air travel to the City of Light up by more than 20 percent from January 1, 2018, to December 1, 2018.

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Forecasts show that New York will continue to dominate the business travel market. Egencia flight data shows that business trip flight bookings to New York were nearly 10 percent higher than bookings to London in 2018.

Fourth on the list is Asian business hub Shanghai. China’s pre-eminent commerce center and, while Europe holds two spots in the top three and the U.S. takes the top spot, Asian destinations dominate the top 20. Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo rank sixth, eighth and ninth respectively, and Beijing came in at number 15, Mumbai was 17 on the list and Seoul was in the 20th spot.

The Middle East, South America and North Africa all have taken spots in the top 20 as well. Dubai came in at 11, according to Egencia data. Sao Paulo was 18 and Casablanca was number 19.

Overall, business travel is on the rise. Between January 1, 2014, and December 1, 2018, total business travel flight bookings increased globally by nearly 110 percent.

“While U.S. and European cities retain the top three spots, the most interesting takeaway is how global business travel has truly become with five of seven continents represented in the top 20 destinations,” said Andrew Dyer, Vice President of Global Supply at Egencia brand. “As business travel continues to grow, it’s never been more important for companies to have a traveler-friendly program that also provides unified global tools for travel managers to assist their travelers.”

Here are the official Egencia top business travel destinations:

—New York

—London

—Paris

—Shanghai

—Toronto

—Singapore

—San Francisco

—Hong Kong

—Tokyo

—Chicago

—Dubai

—Mexico City

—Boston

—Montreal

—Beijing

—Los Angeles

—Mumbai

—Sao Paulo

—Casablanca

—Seoul

The Best Winter Road Trips

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California

Winter may not seem like the ideal time to undertake a road trip but some of the summer’s most popular routes are even more beautiful in the wintertime.

Warm up on Florida’s beaches or cozy up in a cabin in Taos and, in the meantime, enjoy the drive along the way.

Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys

Florida Keys

A 113-mile road trip along Route 1 in the Florida Keys is an ideal way to escape the cold bite of winter. Drivers can explore beautiful beaches, art galleries and old Victorian homes.

The route is every bit as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer and travelers have the added bonus of more affordable accommodation options and fewer fellow vacationers.

Pacific Coast Highway

Highway 1 has recently reopened in full, and road trippers can once again enjoy unencumbered roads from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The drive can be done in one weekend, but travelers can easily take up to a week to enjoy quaint seaside towns, stunning scenery and a variety of activities such as wine tasting, hiking, beachcombing and more.

Arches National Park in winter

Arches National Park

Arches is stunning at any time of year, but there’s something about its precarious arches blanketed in snow that makes the otherworldly landscapes appear to be even more out of this world. Road trippers will find few other travelers joining them on the trails to explore Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock, and they can hole up in cozy accommodations in nearby Moab, Utah.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Travel through the storybook landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a winter road trip from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Asheville, North Carolina. Following Interstate 40 and U.S. 321, travelers can enjoy stunning vistas, the aerial tramway and reasonable rates on accommodations in a winter wonderland.

Taos Valley, New Mexico

The High Road to Taos

The high desert comes alive in the winter, and taking the High Road to Taos from Santa Fe provides road trippers with awe-inspiring scenery and remote Mountain villages. Be sure to stop at the Ranchos de Taos, a traditional agricultural community, as well as the San Francisco de Asis Church.

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Road trippers can take advantage of a number of Enterprise Rent-a-Car services such as special weekend rates or one-way car rentals when planning their road trip.

Right now, travelers to Florida can take advantage of a one-way special with a base rate starting at $24.95 between April 1-May 31, 2019.

Weekend special rates are also available for rentals starting on Fridays and through Mondays at participating neighborhood locations.

Enterprises’ extensive network of car rental locations and it’s pick-up service means that it’s a seamless experience for those renting a car from almost anywhere in the country.

The Top 100 Corporate Hotels for Business Travelers Revealed

Sky Pool at ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas

Egencia, Expedia’s business travel division, has announced the winners of its annual awards program, revealing the top 100 preferred hotels around the globe.

The Egencia program honors properties with the goal of recognizing those that are committed to customer service for business and corporate clients.

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The finalists for the fourth annual awards program range from major hotel brands to independent properties and were selected based on satisfaction ratings, pricing, desirable amenities for corporate travelers, customer service and the overall guest experience in 2018.

“A great business traveler experience is just as important to us as providing a great business travel platform here at Egencia, which is why each year we recognize and reward hotels that deliver outstanding customer service, tremendous value for money and popular amenities,” said Andrew Dyer, vice president of global supply at Egencia brand.

“This year’s honorees go above and beyond what is expected of them to put the needs and comfort of business travelers first, offering conveniences such as complimentary breakfast and loyalty points.”

The top 100 hotels recognized by Egencia include properties in 17 countries across five continents. These properties delivered nearly 90,000 with complimentary breakfast and 75,000 room nights eligible for loyalty points to more than 145,000 Egencia business travelers in 2018.

Top hotels in major U.S. business hubs include the following:

California, Los Angeles

Dream Hollywood

California, San Francisco

Galleria Park Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel

Grand Hyatt San Francisco Union Square

Hotel Nikko San Francisco

Hotel Spero

Hotel Zelos San Francisco

Omni San Francisco Hotel

Stanford Court San Francisco

The Marker San Francisco, a Joie de Vivre Hotel

California, San Jose

Hotel Valencia Santana Row

California, West Hollywood

Montrose West Hollywood

The Jeremy Hotel West Hollywood

Florida, Miami Beach

Loews Miami Beach Hotel South Beach

Illinois, Chicago

Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop – Theatre District

Fairmont Chicago at Millennium Park

Freehand Chicago

Loews Chicago Hotel

Omni Chicago Suites – Magnificent Mile

Virgin Hotels Chicago

Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront

Massachusetts, Boston

Boston Omni Parker House Hotel

YOTEL Boston

Minnesota, Minneapolis

Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown

Missouri, St. Louis

The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis

Nevada, Las Vegas

ARIA Resort & Casino

Bellagio

Caesars Palace – Resort & Casino

The LINQ Hotel & Casino

New York, New York

Bentley Hotel

Grand Hyatt New York

Hotel Sofitel New York

Hyatt Centric Times Square New York

Park South Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Hotel

PUBLIC, an Ian Schrager hotel

Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia

The Roosevelt Hotel, New York City

Ohio, Cincinnati

21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati

Ohio, Columbus

Hyatt Regency Columbus

Oregon, Portland

Hotel Lucia

The Benson, a Coast Hotel

Rhode Island, Providence

Omni Providence Hotel

Texas, Austin

Archer Hotel Austin

Omni Austin Hotel

Washington, Seattle

Motif Seattle

Hotel Theodore

Thompson Seattle

Travel Leaders Helps Travelers Choose Their Cruise

Embracing couple in front of cruise ship

What’s known as Wave Season, the biggest reservation period of the year for the cruise industry, is well underway.

During this time, which takes place now through March, cruise lines roll out their biggest deals and most enticing perks to draw in travelers who are ready to book.

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“Many people, especially first-time cruisers, are not aware of the breadth of cruise experiences that are available to accommodate their travel desires,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, president of Travel Leaders Network, which is one of the largest sellers of cruises in North America. “River cruises and ocean cruises can offer a variety of different itineraries and onboard atmospheres, but there is always something for everyone and our travel advisors help their clients sort through the available options.”

The options are broad and, one of the things that the cruise industry has done over the last decade is broaden its depth of product to appeal to a more diverse range of clientele. These days, there is a cruise for just about every type of traveler and guests can experience everything from intimate small ships to mega resorts afloat.

In order to assist travelers with the task of pairing down options and selecting the right cruise, Travel Leaders has put together tips to help make the right selection.

What Type of Ship is Best

Travel Leaders notes that large, oceangoing vessels that travel to destinations such as the Caribbean and Alaska are like floating cities, with lots of choices for dining, activities and entertainment. These ships are ideal for families and groups.

The network also notes that there are smaller, more intimate options such as river cruises.

“River cruises, like the ones that ply Europe’s waterways, are smaller ships and provide a more intimate experience. They can travel close to the center of cities and towns. Onboard activities emphasize the cuisine, history and culture of the destinations,” Travel Leaders says.

Culinary Adventures

These days, cruise ships have evolved past the standard buffet and branched out to include unique dining experiences and gourmet restaurants.

These experiences also often extend to shore excursions.

Couple having lunch on cruise

“With innovative partnerships with well-known chefs and culinary experts, the cruise lines offer a way to immerse oneself and deepen one’s understanding of a region by taking a journey that feeds the senses with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of local and authentic flavors. Expanded onboard cuisine options to shore excursions will often focus on flavorful, regional ingredients, cooking styles, demonstrations and tastings,” Travel Leaders points out.

Journeys That Quench Thirst

Whether it’s wine, beer or the trendiest new cocktails, travelers want to experience local flavors—and cruise lines are answering their demands.

“Certain cruises offer an opportunity for tastings and to learn from mixologists, sommeliers or famous brewers either onboard, during shore excursions or both. These cruises provide opportunities to try different selections that bring the rich history and culture of the people alive,” notes Travel Leaders. “Travelers may tap their own beer, blend their own wine, or explore a region rich in the history of the local vineyards.”

Expedition Cruises for the Explorer

One of the most popular trends is the explosion of options in the expedition cruising market. Those who love adventure can find a home onboard one of these intimate ships that sail to some of the most remote places in the world.

Geiranger fjord, Norway

“These ships, equipped with sturdy, inflatable boats called Zodiacs, take vacationers to the shore for land-based excursions or to spots in the water for activities such as deep-sea snorkeling or diving. Smaller ships also allow passengers to disembark more frequently, often with two or three landings or shore excursions per day for unique sightings and adventures,” Travel Leaders says.

Multi-Family Ocean Adventures

Families are spoiled for choice when it comes to cruise options. As previously mentioned, some ships are like floating cities with water slides and kids clubs and other family-friendly features.

However, some cruise lines set themselves up for families in different ways with educational options onboard and onshore.

Groups and Intimate Gatherings

The Travel Leaders Group offers added perks for those traveling in larger groups.

“Through the Distinctive Voyages program, available on nine cruise lines and only available by booking with a Travel Leaders Group travel advisor, clients will also receive a private welcome reception, a complimentary shore excursion and the service of a dedicated Distinctive Voyages host.

The added amenities, available at no extra cost, are a nice way to upgrade a vacation experience without spending more. These amenities are combinable with other national promotions offered by the participating cruise lines,” Travel Leaders notes.

Additional Price Savings and Travel Tips

Travel Leaders also points out that flexibility could mean bigger savings.

Additional savings can also be found on airfare. While it’s not always feasible depending on the destination, one can save even more by leaving from a port close to home. For those traveling long distance, it is always advisable to arrive at the port city at least a day before the ship sails. This gives vacationers a chance to explore the port before departing, and also relieves the stress and worry should they experience flight delays or even misplaced luggage—all of which can add to the expense of the trip.

There are more than 4,000 cruise specialists at Travel Leaders Network ready to help travelers book their next cruise.

Avoya Travel Wins Gold at 2019 Travvy Awards

Avoya Travel Mastermind Academy onboard MSC Seaside

Avoya Travel took home two gold Travvy statues at travAlliancemedia’s annual awards ceremony, which took place on January 23, 2019, at Gotham Hall in New York City.

The host agency took home honors for Best Host Agency as well as Best Host Agency Website, AvoyaTravel.com, during the fifth annual Travvy Awards.

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Once again, Avoya led the way in the host agency category, taking home top honors for the 5th year in a row. Nexion took second, with silver awards in both categories and Ciao Bambino was also nominated in each.

Avoya had another banner year in 2018, and the host agency expects a winning 2019 for its agents, who predict they will top last year’s sales during this year’s Wave selling season which is ongoing through March, and this can be attributed to its ongoing focus on agent training and education.

“With the help of Avoya’s Mastermind Program, I have better focus and the ability to handle more business during Wave and all of 2019,” said RaShonda Gibson of Abundant Journeys, LLC.

Avoya also saw triple-digit growth and early success with its New-to-Travel Agents last year, and the host agency hosted its first Avoya Travel Institute, a new educational opportunity that educated advisors on relationship building with top partners in 2018.

The host agency was also recently recognized as Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2018 Online Partner of the Year, which continues to show that the network is deserving of its numerous honors.

Virtuoso Reveals New 2019 Initiatives

Marketing strategy.

Virtuoso continues to put its travel advisors first with new initiatives aimed at bolstering efficiency and profitability for its members.

The network revealed details of its new programs as well as growth updates at the recent 2019 U.S. & Canada Forum, which took place in Austin, Texas, January 24-26, 2019.

The event itself set a record with its highest attendance ever, 510 attendees, which is not surprising as the health of the industry can be seen from Virtuoso’s network growth over the last year.

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The network currently has a record number of travel advisors, reaching 20,000 in 2018, a 14 percent increase. Eight-one percent of that growth came from existing member agencies, with the remainder from newly added members.

Virtuoso now counts more than 1,000 agency locations in 50 countries. These agencies are responsible for $26.4 billion in sales in 2018. That is an 11 percent increase in annual production.

When it comes to key partner segments, there are even more areas where the network is experiencing double-digit growth, including tours (plus 11 percent), cruises (plus 13 percent), on-sites (plus 18 percent) and hotels (plus 26 percent).

Taking into consideration these strong growth numbers, its no wonder travel advisors have a strong outlook for 2019. Ninety-two percent of members are predicting sales growth for this year, and half of the respondents are envisioning growth of more than 10 percent.

Eighty-four percent of members said that the U.S. government shutdown has not affected consumer confidence in travel. Despite recent stock market fluctuations, 58 percent say consumer confidence has not been impacted.

Virtuoso continues to support its members, paying them 100 percent of the overrides it receives from preferred partners and provides a way to share best practices across the full agency operation through Virtuoso Benchmarking Teams.

Its three-step strategic collaboration process, focused on setting up goals and working to meet them, is unique to Virtuoso another way the network assists agencies.

For 2019, the top member goals are improving advisor efficiency, developing talent, finding new advisor talent and maximizing marketing, and Virtuoso has created initiatives to strategically address each area of interest.

Virtuoso will also continue to train and develop talent in the industry. The Virtuoso Travel Academy provides members with live webinars, online training, video-based sessions and travel documentaries. Advisors can also an intensive week-long program called the Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor that has already enjoyed amazing success, training more than 300 participants.

Virtuoso has also introduced MyMarketing that will enhance advisor efficiency, simplify marketing efforts and increase effectiveness.

Host Agency Reviews Reveals Results of Fee Survey

Collecting money for travel. Glass tin as moneybox with cash (Photo via Aksenovko / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

This year, more than 800 travel agents responded to the Host Agency Reviews Hosted Travel Agent Fee Report, which means the data is even more comprehensive than in previous years. A significantly higher number of independent agents and storefront agencies also participated in the survey this year—providing deeper insight into the fee structure of travel agents.

When it comes to the overall results, 47 percent of hosted agents charge a fee, the survey reported. Breaking it down, 9 percent charged consultation fees, 23 percent charged service fees and 15 percent charged both.

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When it comes to hosted home-based agents versus hosted storefront agents, the difference was stark.

Just 45 percent of hosted home-based travel agents charged fees versus 80 percent of their storefront counterparts.

Most hosted home-based agents (22 percent) charged service fees, and just over 8 percent charged for consultations. Just over 14 percent charged for both, however, the majority of home-based hosted agents did not charge any fees, nearly 55 percent.

Most hosted storefront agents reported that they charge service fees, almost 43 percent. Just 5.7 percent charge a consultation fee and 31 percent reported charging both. Only 20 percent reported that they charged no fees.

The most commonly charged service fees were for airfare bookings. FIT bookings were the next most common fee charges, followed by rail tickets and air-inclusive packages.

When charging consultation fees, 65 percent of hosted agents charged a flat fee, with a median set fee of $75 and median variable fees between $100-$325. Seventeen percent of hosted agents charged a per person fee, with a median set fee of $50 and median variable fees between $50-$150. Five percent charged an hourly fee which was around $100, and 13 percent reported other consultation fees.

Years of experience somewhat correlates with the likelihood to charge fees.

Nearly 70 percent of hosted travel agents with more than 20 years of experience were likely to charge fees. Travel agents with between 11 and 20 years of experience were around 49 percent likely to charge fees but those with between six and 10 years of experience charged fees at a higher rate, 58.6 percent. Just over 40 percent of agents with between two and five years of experience were likely to charge fees, and agents with one year of experience were slightly more likely to charge fees at 44.2 percent.

When it comes to niche versus fee, 100 percent of hosted agents booking FIT charge fees and 77.5 percent of those selling luxury travel. Nearly 58 percent of destination specialists charged fees, and more than 50 percent of agents specializing in river cruises, all-inclusive travel, groups, weddings/honeymoons and adventure travel charged fees as well. Nearly 47 percent of hosted agents selling family travel charge fees and almost 35 percent of those selling ocean cruises also charge a fee. Twenty-five percent of those selling Disney vacations also charged for their services.

While fees are growing more common, there are still many agents who don’t charge fees and the reasons vary. Most commonly, travel agents are concerned about growing their business. Thirty-two percent said that they might not be able to attract new clients. Thirty percent say they don’t have enough experience to charge fees. Twenty-nine percent simply said they don’t want to charge fees and 28 percent said they might lose clients. Nineteen percent said that they didn’t know enough about fees to charge them.

Apple Vacations Will Offer Convenient Payments, Lowers Deposits

family, parents, kids, beach, family vacation

Apple Vacations is making paying for travel even easier and more affordable.

The tour operator has joined forces with Uplift, a travel technology platform that gives users the chance to pay for travel in monthly increments. In addition, Apple Vacations has lowered its standard deposit amount when travelers pay for AV-OK Total Vacation Security.

Through MyAppleOnline.com powered by VAX VacationAccess, Uplift lets clients spread out the cost of a trip with affordable monthly payments. Travelers apply and, once their application is accepted, Uplift pays the reservation in full and then monthly payments are then paid to the company.

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Payments are processed automatically and confirmation details are provided via a convenient email and text.

The new payment system is available now for travel starting May 1, 2019, and beyond.

“Getaways are essential for hard-working Americans and should not be out-of-reach. Apple Vacations’ new payment initiatives help travelers fulfill their vacation dreams without having to endure a hefty financial burden all at once,” said John Tarkowski, president of Apple Vacations.

Apple Vacations’ new lower deposit options will also make vacations more affordable.

When clients purchase AV-OK Total Vacation Security, a standard per person deposit on published air package with AVOK is $100, compared to 100 percent of the air cost plus $50 hotel deposit without the AV-OK feature.

The plan is worth it for clients, as it provides them with the chance to cancel or change for any reason up to the time flight check-in is closed.

AV-OK also includes best price guarantee and high-quality travel insurance with trip interruption, baggage and medical coverage.

International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expand Groups Program for Travel Advisors

Northern Lights from the city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Two leaders in experiential travel, International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions, are expanding their group programs for travel professionals.

Advisors can now earn free space when booking as few as four guests on select departures with both tour operators.

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They can also earn other perks on small groups such as gift cards for themselves and special fare savings for their clients. If they choose, travel advisors can forgo traveling as the tour conductor and instead receive $2,500 bonus commission on Zegrahm departures.

International Expeditions’ 10-day Amazon cruises are one of the journeys where travel consultants selling just four cabins can receive a free spot. Qualifying journeys for these groups include the March 15, March 29, April 5, May 3, May 17 or May 24, 2019, departures. Pricing starts at $5,698 per person.

Zegrahm’s 15-day Underwater Wonders of Western Australia cruise is another itinerary that requires the booking of just four guests to earn advisors a free spot on the expedition Down Under.

Pricing for the May 13, 2019 departure starts at $14,580 per person.

Travel professionals earn a free spot after booking six guests on Zegrahm’s 17-day Path of the Vikings expedition, which includes excursions in Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, Saint Lawrence, and Quebec.

Pricing for the August 27, 2019 departure starts at $14,980 per person.

Pacific Delight Introduces New Culinary Tour in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City sunny day.  (photo via HuyThoai/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

WHY IT RATES: Pacific Delight has overhauled its culinary experiences in Southeast Asia with the launch of a new Vietnam itinerary. —Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse Senior Writer


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After developing specialized niche culinary programs for kosher and gluten-free travelers, Pacific Delight Tours is implementing a complete overhaul of its Southeast Asia program beginning with an introduction to Vietnam’s Culinary Delights.

The new 12-day program launches in March 2019 and will feature a foodie-driven approach to exploring the Vietnamese cultural centers of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh as well as UNESCO-recognized Hoi An and Ha Long Bay.

The program begins in Hanoi where, in addition to seeing fascinating temples, pagodas, palaces and iconic landmarks such as the Temple of Literature, passengers will learn about authentic local culinary techniques from a Vietnamese celebrity chef.

Chef Anh Tuyet, who rose to fame in the U.S. when the late Anthony Bourdain praised her grilled honey chicken as one of the best Vietnamese dishes he ever tasted, will introduce passengers to Hanoi’s famous street food culture where they can sample aromatic dishes such as rice vermicelli, fresh papaya salad and classic pho noodle soup.

The gastronomic experience continues onboard a luxury cruise through Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where a cooking demonstration by the ship’s chef will complement the majestic limestone formations for which the destination is most revered.

In Hoi An, travelers will delve deeply into the culinary scene of the well preserved port city which achieved UNESCO World Heritage classification in 1999. Activities will include an afternoon cruise through Water Coconut Forest, an introduction to organic farming methods which have revolutionized local agriculture and an opportunity to learn how to cast a net to catch fish, shrimp and crabs from a local fisherman onboard a traditional Vietnamese sampan.

A hands-on cooking class will be followed by dinner in a bamboo house overlooking sights of the river and rice paddies, as vacationers will get to taste the fruits of their labor.

The tour concludes in Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon), where travelers will sample traditional Vietnamese iced coffee in the city’s oldest coffee shop dating back seven decades.

They will also experience Ho Chi Minh by street lamp with a nightlife tour on a vintage Vespa that begins with drinks at the popular Zoom Cafe and culminates with a delectable barbecue featuring fresh spring rolls accompanied by the sounds of live unplugged music for a fully immersive experience.

In addition to exploring the regional cuisine of Vietnam’s most populous southern city, guests will trace the footsteps of Vietcong soldiers through the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground network connecting command posts, hospitals and weapons factories that was never discovered by American forces during the Vietnam War.

The program is priced from $3,299 per person, based on double occupancy, and includes transportation throughout Vietnam, deluxe hotel accommodations and all meals and activities outlined on the itinerary. International airfare is not included but can be purchased from Pacific Delight Tours and arranged at the time of booking.

For more information or to book, contact Pacific Delight Tours at 800-221-7179 or visit PacificDelightTours.com.


SOURCE: Pacific Delight Tours press release.

Disney Announces New Details for Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot, Disney, flower

Travelers heading to Walt Disney World Resort this spring will be able to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the 26th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, starting March 6.

The Flower & Garden Festival runs 90 days through June 3 and will feature dozens of Disney-crafted topiaries and beds of multi-colored blooms that transform the Epcot landscape into a floral extravaganza.

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Epcot will also host the Garden Rocks Concert Series every day of the festival, with artists performing three shows daily on the America Gardens Theatre stage. Some of the acts include the Spinners, Herman’s Hermits, Steven Curtis Chapman, Colin Hay of Men at Work and more.

For the foodie in the group, the Flower & Garden Festival will boast new culinary dishes and outdoor kitchens, including AdventHealth’s cooking area that will teach families fun and interactive ways to stay healthy.

In addition, the events at Epcot will also include family scavenger hunts, Toy Story topiary and returning gardens and exhibits, such as the Goodness Garden Butterfly House, where nearly 1,000 native butterflies will fly among the garden’s two dozen nectar plants.

Several guided tours will be offered on select days throughout the festival for an additional fee, but admission to the theme park is required for all in attendance.

Deaf Couple Claims Delta Agent Refused to Communicate With Them

Delta Aircraft interior (Photo via Delta)

A California couple who are deaf had a poor experience with a Delta Air Lines agent who refused to communicate with them through writing and apparently rolled her eyes at them.

On Sunday evening at the Detroit Metro Airport, a Delta counter agent told Socorro Garcia and Melissa Elmira Yingst that they would be assigned adjacent seats once they got on their flight. Just to be sure, they approached the Delta gate agent to double check.

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The couple used an iPhone to type their wish to sit together on the plane and handed it to the gate agent whose name tag identified her as “Felicia.” Instead of writing down her answer, the couple said that Felicia “kept talking to us without writing anything down.”

Yingst questioned why they couldn’t sit together but the agent rolled her eyes and wrote on a piece of paper that the flight was full and therefore they couldn’t sit together. Garcia then tried to write a follow-up question on the same piece of paper, but the agent grabbed the paper, crumbled it and threw it in a trash can.

Yingst documented the incident immediately on her notepad and asked the agent her name but she refused. Yingst saw the woman’s name on her badge, wrote it on her notepad and tried to get Felicia to communicate with them on paper, but she refused.

Garcia tried to retrieve the paper from the trash, but the agent blocked Garcia, and that’s when Yingst said she began recording video of the confrontation. In the video, you can see Garcia trying to communicate with the agent by mimicking writing on a piece of paper, but Felicia continually shakes her head as she records on her own phone.

Felicia can also be heard saying, “No more talking.”

Felicia called the police and accused Garcia of assaulting her. The police told the couple that nothing could be done about the seating arrangement and told them to leave the boarding area and book another flight to Los Angeles.

The couple left the airport, got a nearby hotel and shared their experience via a Facebook video.

“Whew. This is raw. I see this kind of stuff happen to many Deaf, DeafBlind, and DeafDisabled people in the news. I’ve always listened to those stories with disbelief,” said Yingst, a TV personality who appears on the deaf-friendly entertainment-news show “True Biz.”

She added, “Even though I have seen this many times, it was a huge shock when it happened to us. The feeling of being oppressed is very traumatic.”

Garcia added: “Loss for words. What did we do wrong?”

Spokesman Michael Thomas said in a statement late Monday: “Delta is in contact with two customers who reported having difficulty communicating with a gate agent prior to their flight.”

“We are reviewing the situation with our Detroit team and will work with these customers to better understand what transpired. As always, we take situations like these seriously and we are using this as an opportunity to learn and improve.”

Delta told the Detroit Free Press that they refunded Yingst and Garcia’s tickets but wouldn’t allow them to board the plane since Garcia went behind the counter to retrieve the note from the trash. The airline claims that Yingst and Garcia knew they wouldn’t be seated together and that the boarding agent was accommodating. They claimed that Felicia told the couple she would work with flight attendants to help seat them together if someone agreed to give up their seat.

This claim by Delta that the boarding agent was helpful is quite different than Garcia and Yingst’s telling of the story.

“This really isn’t about us not being able to sit together but how they handled communication and refused to provide us access to the needs we asked for,” Yingst said.

Yingst wrote in an email to the Free Press on Monday: “This has been very traumatizing for us and we right now are currently collecting resources to figure out the best way to remedy this situation. We booked a different flight out of Detroit with a different airline. Currently on our way to L.A. Just looking forward to a hot shower tonight!”

How to Be High-Touch in a High-Tech World

Woman planning with a map

Technology has transformed the travel industry but no matter how high-tech it becomes, the basics of selling vacations still remain. Travel advisors need to be high-touch, personal and knowledgeable with their clients. They need to be the experts.

Maintaining the high-touch aspects of selling of travel in a high-tech way is a delicate balance and something that Cruise Planners excels at.

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Cruise Planners suggests that its agents engage with clients when they have something of value to offer such as a specific trip or a promotion. The host agency also recommends reminding clients when it’s been a year since their last booking and that maybe they should consider traveling again.

Advisors should send something that will make the client feel understood and that is a valuable use of their time—and now Cruise Planners agents can do this in a high-tech, easy way.

One of the ways that Cruise Planners makes this easy for its advisors is by using triggered emails and hot lists, automated communications that keep the agent’s name in front of their client so that they can devote more time to more personalized communication.

CP Maxx is an innovative proprietary technology offered to Cruise Planners advisors that is designed to handle bookings, accounting and reporting, and Hot Lists is a new tool that is offered within it. It automatically generates lists of hot sales opportunities for clients in an agent’s database based on certain criteria such as milestone birthdays and anniversaries, those who haven’t booked in the last 12 months and those clients who have an open onboard future cruise deposit.

The tool gives advisors the option of personalizing an eCard for the client or an eCard can be automatically sent to the list of Hot Lists clients each month.

Another way advisors can keep in touch with clients is through triggered emails that are automatically sent to clients throughout the life of a booking. There are up to nine emails for cruise bookings and up to seven emails for tour bookings and they are sent on the agent’s behalf.

This helps agents develop a dialogue with clients throughout the life of the booking, without much effort from the advisor, leaving them time to continue making sales and growing their business.

Continually reaching out to clients means they are reminded to book shore excursions, purchase travel insurance and ensure that passports are up-to-date. The tool also reminds clients about the benefits of rebooking during their vacation, generating even more commission dollars.

Triggered emails include thank yous for all bookings, upcoming payment reminders, “last chance” emails for travel insurance and more.

Other high-touch communication offerings from Cruise Planners include an eCard builder in CP Maxx, a chat feature that allows advisors to chat automatically with clients using their website and weekly eNewsletters from CruisePlanners.

Of course, travel agents are always encouraged to use traditional forms of communication—phone calls, personal emails, paper cards—to recognize and get in touch with clients. Some agents have even created their own travel clubs in their community to further develop face-to-face communications with clients and create an ongoing dialogue.

For advice, Cruise Planners advisors have a business development coach who works with them to develop an execute their sales and marketing plan as well as helping them implement best practices for running their business.

In addition to advice on how to proactively reach out and follow up with clients, these coaches assist with the high-tech aspects, including pulling reports on clients in the database that would be best to contact for promotions and special offers.

We're Entering a New Golden Age of Travel

Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko

The travel industry is experiencing a renaissance of the Golden Age of Travel, according to Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group. And that’s occurring in concert with the resurgence of the professional travel advisor.

Chacko made his comments Wednesday at the Travel Leaders Group 2019 Industry Outlook at the company’s new global headquarters on Broadway in New York City.

Most people think of the Golden Age of Travel as back when planes and trains were more luxurious, featured attentive personal service and people dressed up to take a trip.

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Now, however, “the world has shrunk” as airlines are offering nonstop service around the world at affordable prices and upscale expedition ships are taking people to exotic destinations, he said. “Prices are super competitive compared to where we were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.”

At the same time, Chacko said, consumers have more choices than ever and are searching for more unique adventures, so they’re increasingly seeking expert advice from professional travel advisors—“someone who understands the vast array of travel choices but also understands their customers.”

He noted that Phocuswright years ago predicted the extinction of travel agents, but now notes that they’re “thriving alongside OTAs and supplier-direct channels.”

Even millennials are turning to travel agents, according to the MMGY “Portrait of the American Traveler” study, which might not be what you expect from the generation that grew up with the internet. “But they’re seeking experiences none of their friends or parents have had,” Chacko said.

He said travel agents could help craft “hyper-intensive itineraries” with the help of tourism boards to meet the desires of their customers.

Trends continuing in 2019 include strong economic conditions, a positive GDP outlook, investment in every travel sector, the rise of the travel advisor and more “conscious travelers” seeking value-based, sustainable, meaningful travel, Chacko said. Challenges include safety and security, overtourism, cybersecurity and the actions of the federal government.

Travel Leaders Group includes 20 brands, 4,200 global employees, 6,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors who together produce a total sales volume exceeding $20 billion.