Monthly Archives: August 2017

Why Travel Agents & Tour Operators Need To Focus On Authentic Local Experiences To Stay Competitive

The major elements comprising the generic destination competitiveness model helps to identify the key success factors of destination marketing. Among the many approximate set of indicators used to determine destination competitiveness, local experiences is one of the key points. Elaborate empirical as well as conceptual research points out the relative strengths and weaknesses of different tourism destinations, which can then be used to study the impact of local experiences on the travelers and vice versa.

The discerning travelers of today’s world love exploring unique experiences each destination has to offer and go much beyond staying in the top suite of hotels. Choosing the best dining options and spas has otherwise become passe. No online portal can take you to the hidden nuggets of the destination except the native folks. So, to match up with the millennials’ definition of travel, you need to indulge with the locals which is way beyond any packaged holiday or cookie-cutter options.

Blurring the borders of traditional definition of travel
It’s important for Travel Agents to realize that selling travel is actually selling happiness. Imbuing travel goals based on interaction with local people makes travel more meaningful than ever. Authenticity, simplicity, and culture are the new watchwords driving the growth of the travel tourism sector internationally. The evolution of the whole new travel genre is based entirely on indulging in local experiences. It is not about the best luxury experience but the intrinsic local touch will definitely add magic to the holiday memory. Remember that the most valued luxury is experience.

Present-day culture travelers have moved beyond the familiar environs and revel in the experience in itself. Clearly enough, tourists that like to break the mold are more interactive with local residents. This paradigm shift has not however, completely caught up with everyone yet. The focus of investments still remains on the traditional tourism-related components.

To create a layered travel experience, the hospitality industry is gradually promoting themselves as the portals for the local community. Although that might not be a necessity but local experience will definitely give a competitive advantage.

Blending national culture and heritage into luxury travel tours need careful planning and is bound to enhance tourist’s experience. Getting certified from the government tourism policies which include inter-cultural education policy helps to makes the travel agents’ outset more impressive.

Counter homogenization of the travel experience is the new clause of the tourism authorities. Embracing local cultural tourism will have an impressive lasting impact on travelers with like-minded outlook. Traditional vertical distribution chains among the travel providers has given way to complex value chains and thus in this increasingly competitive marketplace, providers need to seize every opportunity for competitive advantage. Collaborative advantage through local and government partnership is thus a new norm. Local culture and society has become an essential part of tourism value chain. The integrated inter-relationships between travel and other socio-economic sectors are now conceived as a ‘value network’.

Promoting Local Cuisine
Sustainable tourism, which is tantamount to responsible tourism, has been a major concern in the travel industry for the past couple of years. Experiencing the local culture largely contours around the traditional gourmet industry. Trying traditional food completes the cultural experience of the place. Talking of the economic aspect, if you are eating at McDonald’s, instead of benefiting the local community, a major chunk of it leaves the local socio-economic circle. The international traveler’s gang consist majorly the Western tourists and without much doubt, the need for Western food is always higher than the local recipes.

While traveling for a single night’s stay, people might think it not important enough to connect to the local traditions. However, pennies in the pocket of the local cuisine industry help to uplift the local tourism industry on a larger picture. Walking into a McDonald’s or a KFC might fill your tummy but will neither add to the local tourism sector nor enhance your experience. For instance, Vietnamese pho is now a big pull for travelers in Vietnam and when in Costa Rica, do not miss gallo pinto. Building connections with the local folks is not always the only token you get in return but you actually help to build a perception about your nationality as a whole. A country’s heritage is strongly rooted within the memories of the local people and as the old folks say, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

Experiential travel – creating a deeper connect
The demand for ‘experiential travel’ is arguably the most significant as well as systematic trend in worldwide tourism. The term typically defines immersive, authentic, local, and more active travel trend. While some travel enthusiasts would like to argue that travel is inherently ‘experiential’ by nature and that the term is overused, the idea is to make it more mainstream. Travel consumer attitude has varied wildly when it comes to local tourism and it is its degree of definition varies widely how the overall trend is approached.

On a deeper emotional and more personal level, people want to travel better at the end of the day. Growing numbers of travelers shying away from the traditional packaged travel brochure is definitely a valid evidence of how local experiences matter for the new age travelers.

Going Social
Relying on technology and global networks of small and individual travel providers, travel brands are offering more connected experiences. Almost infinite online matrix of social media networks keep us connected no matter where we travel. But ironically enough these social networks are gradually isolating people in real life than helping them make closer to human connections. The online sharing portal pair travelers with the local citizen network and offer experience to travel like local.

With packaged tourism losing its appeal among modern day travelers digs the question of what exactly is authentic travel. Consumer data might reveal a section of these answers but tracking social media will give an organic result. For travel brands targeting specific niches, evaluating and adapting to the changing travel behavior is much important.

Hidden Travel Pitfalls the World Needs to Know

Even if you have travelled a lot in the past, you are still susceptible to blunders while traveling, even if you are not aware that you are making them. Some travellers have already fallen into a trap, a not easily recognized difficulty – a pitfall. Unfortunately, when you have already fallen into a travel pitfall, it is often a challenge to get out of it. Just before you board that plane, avoid these four common travel pitfalls so that you make the most out of your trip, along with some smart planning ideas.

Travel Pitfall 1: Going Beyond Your Budget

Budget is very important while traveling. It is always a good idea to plan out how much you’re spending versus the number of days that you will be staying in a country. You should be able to allocate a per-day budget and stick with it. Of course there will always be that unprecedented expense. Smart travellers usually get travel insurance during the duration of their travel to cover for unexpected costs incurred while travel such as lost baggage, medical expenses, etc.

Before leaving, it is also crucial to make sure you know how much money you have and what you can afford to spend. As much as possible, you should always pay in cash while you are travelling, as there may be places that only accept cash. You should be able to keep cash on reserve in an accessible international account like a savings account just in case of emergencies. There are also several travel apps available that will help you keep track of your expenses.

Travel Pitfall 2: Getting Sick While Travelling

The most common travel illness is diarrhoea. Eating contaminated food and water contributes to diarrhoea. You should always remember that when you are in a strange place, stick to bottled or purified water and freshly prepared food. If you are not sure how food is prepared, do not ingest it. However, travellers can also get ill with respiratory tract infections and influenza. Standing on airports or sitting on planes can get you infected with these common illnesses. When you get ill while travelling, it may get expensive. In some countries, expert medical care in most facilities cost a fortune. One thing you can do is to choose travel insurance that covers medical expenses while travelling.

Travel Pitfall 3: Not adhering to safety precautions

There are always safety risks while travelling. In fact, even our own government gives a travel warning whenever we go to certain countries. While we can’t avoid accidents and mishaps on the round, safety is a priority, especially when we are travelling with our family.

When you’re traveling you need to be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are a tourist in a remote region. There are some ways to stay safe while travelling like keeping your passport, travel documents, cash, and credit cards in a secure place, and spreading them around in various bags just in case one is stolen. You should also not call too much attention to yourself and avoid wearing touristy clothes. While this is not possible in many Asian countries, just try to blend in as much as possible. While travelling, women should always be with a group and not walk in darkened streets alone. While it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy and have a drink or two at a bar, keep track of your alcohol consumption. You shouldn’t get too drunk that you cannot find your way to your hotel.

Travel Pitfall 4: Not Anticipating your Mobile Situation

One of the most unexpected expenses that await us when we get back from our trip is the very costly mobile phone bill. This is due to roaming charges while we are using our phone abroad. In order to avoid this, you should research ahead of time and see if you can purchase an inexpensive local prepaid SIM card to get very affordable data and minutes. You can always make VOIP calls or send text messages through Facebook Messenger or Skype. There are also other ways of communicating over the internet such as Viber, WhatsApp, Line, and many others.

Travel Pre And Post Internet

Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first old banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.

My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an old ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow more time to enjoy the local travel opportunities by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.

‘Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble my travel plans. Some years later I crossed the pond again on a ship but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot see myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to buy t-shirts. However, I have done 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.

I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, from sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching off of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of wonder to a bloke from London. Today the scenery is still spectacular and the best way to go is still by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.

My favorite part of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps of the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Alaska. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a few bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or drive on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your list. The pleasures and experiences in driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Road can only be felt by doing them. I would have mentioned the Alaska Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.

Today the costs of driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with others is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to see beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not even consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Some other memorable drives that may now require a mortgage with the gas companies include London to The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.

We tend to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less today than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for fuel, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ method of price comparison as developed by The Economist newspaper gives us a good gauge for most expenditures of today compared to yesterday but my $1500 cost to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when using this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiences

Traveling To America? New ESTA Registration Mandated January 2009

For years, visitors from certain foreign countries have been able to travel to America without first getting a formal Visa sticker placed in their passport. Implemented in 1998, the “Visa Waiver Program” (VWP) has allowed for visitors of several countries to come to America for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without getting a Visa put in their passport. During 2007, more than 15 million visitors from VWP countries arrived in the United States.

As of January 12, 2009 America’s new ESTA program requires Visa Waiver Program visitors coming to the U.S. for tourist or business purposes via a plane or ship to “register” online before entering the United States to see if they pose a law enforcement or security risk to the U.S. ESTA is not required for land crossings. Officials are asking that the ESTA registration be done at least 72 hours prior to leaving, but theoretically it is possible to register at the last minute. An ESTA Travel Authorization is free, valid for 2 years, and valid for multiple entries.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for ESTA Travel Authorization:

What Countries Are in the Visa Waiver Program?

Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Where Do I Apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization?

A website, operated by the American government, is where you register for ESTA: esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The ESTA information you submit via the computer is compared with certain American law enforcement databases and then either approved or denied. Foreign travelers will not be able to submit ESTA applications at American airports after arriving or at a U.S. Embassy in their country.

What if I Don’t Have Plans to Travel to the U.S. Yet?

VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization. As soon as VWP travelers begin to plan a trip to visit the U.S., they are encouraged to apply for travel authorization through the ESTA website. Applicants are not required to update their destination addresses or itineraries if they change after their ESTA Travel Authorization has been granted.

Does the ESTA Travel Authorization Guarantee Entry to the U.S.?

An ESTA Travel Authorization only authorizes a traveler to board an airline or ship for travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. After they arrive, travelers who obtained an ESTA Travel Authorization may still be denied entry (also called “admission”) at a U.S. port of entry, such as an American airport. An approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admissibility at an American airport. In all cases, the American airport officers make the final determination whether a foreign traveler can enter the U.S. or not. You still have to establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting officer that you are entitled to be admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Can I Change My Travel Itinerary?

It is possible to change an itinerary on an existing ESTA Travel Authorization; ESTA is designed so that you can update parts of it at any time. Travelers who did not get an ESTA approval may be denied boarding by the airlines, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission to the U.S. at the American airport.

What If I Already Have a Valid B1/B2 Visitor Visa?

While the ESTA Travel Authorization is completed online with no interview, there are Visas that require a U.S. Embassy interview. The Visa process has separate procedures, which generally require an appointment, travel to a U.S. Embassy, an interview with a Consular Officer, processing time, and the payment of an application fee. If a foreign national already went to the U.S. Embassy and has a valid B1/B2 Visitor Visa pasted in their passport it is not necessary to get an ESTA Travel Authorization because the traveler will be entering with a B1/B2 Visitor Visa and not through the Visa Waiver Program. Keep in mind that an approved ESTA Travel Authorization is not a Visa.

Can I Re-Apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization if Denied?

Yes, but you must wait at least 10 days to reapply and your circumstances must have changed. Unless there is a change in a substantive fact, re-application will not change the result. Keep in mind that applying for an ESTA Travel Authorization with false information can cause a foreign national to be permanently barred from ever entering America. The ESTA system is designed to try to prevent individuals from changing and manipulating an ESTA entry until they receive an approval.

What If I am Denied an ESTA Travel Authorization and Have No Changed Circumstances?

There are three types of responses to an ESTA application; approvedpending or travel not authorized (denied). Applicants who receive a “pending” response are advised to check the website 72 hours later. Applicants who are denied will be required to go to a U.S. Embassy to apply for a formal nonimmigrant visa, such as a B1/B2 Visa, which may take months.

Can a Traveler Find Out the Reason Why an ESTA Application was Denied?

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has stated that travelers may contact the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP at dhs.gov) but there are no guarantees that information about a denial will be divulged. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are not required to provide details about an ESTA denial nor resolve the issue that caused the ESTA denial.

What If I Have a Criminal Record?

Only those qualified to travel under the VWP are eligible to pre-register through ESTA. Persons who have been arrested and/or convicted are generally not eligible for VWP and probably require a formal Visa, such as a B1/B2 Visa, to travel to America. If a foreign national has received tickets for speeding (which don’t usually result in an arrest or conviction) they are probably still eligible for the VWP and ESTA. If a foreign traveler has been denied entry into or deported from the U.S., they require a formal Visa.