Yesterday when driving around town, I saw that the holiday lights were being put up on the big pine tree on the nearby green. I was stunned that they were doing this already - it is not even Halloween as I write this! Yet, sooner than later - the holiday season will once again be upon us. And, it will all begin with Thanksgiving - a day we share with family and friends, good food, perhaps a parade and a little football. Some of us are lucky enough to have a four day weekend. It is always good practice to take pause and think of all the things we have to be thankful for, and this time of year gives us a reminder to do so.
As the editor of JAX FAX, I am thankful for so much. I sincerely appreciate our faithful readership - some of whom have been subscribers for decades, and have been witness to all of the transformations JAX FAX has gone through during our forty years in print.
October 17 saw the end of the 16-day federal government shut down as Republicans conceded to the White House and Democrats' demands. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all they did was agree on a plan to fund the government until January 15, 2014 and raise the debt limit until February 7, 2014. Meanwhile, the shutdown cost the government billions of dollars and damaged the nation’s international credibility. So effectively all that was accomplished was a short term band-aid to an ongoing and dangerous financial crisis within the US Government. Did this instill any confidence in the American people in their elected officials? Can all the furloughed government employees feel secure about what might happen again in the next few months? And what implications does this past and possible future shutdown mean for the travel industry?
According to the American Express internal cruise survey released during this year’s Cruise3Sixty Conference, 38% of the Amex counselors queried said that the cruise product they’re seeing the greatest demand for are small ship cruises. River cruising, which also falls into the small ship category, was close behind at 27%. CLIA reported similar trends in this year’s industry report.
Clients like small ship cruises because they tend to be fairly inclusive, a big plus for those who resent being nickel-and-dimed, who appreciate the comfort and convenience of not signing for every beverage, and not having to add up cruise expenses on a daily basis. And there is the appeal of visiting small ports not accessible to bigger vessels.
Whether clients want to squeeze a few days on the slopes into a business trip or plan a family winter getaway, you’ll have no trouble finding them ski resorts in the northeast. After all, New Hampshire and Vermont are where modern skiing was born -- and it’s still going strong.
Getting your clients to the slopes may be the greatest challenge, as eastern resorts are not close to major airport hubs and there is little public transportation to them. With a few exceptions you will need to add car rental to the package, or at least arrange for limo transfer. The latter works well for skiers who choose full-service resorts, where shuttles carry skiers between hotels and base lodges.
Another challenge is helping clients choose the right resort for their - and their group’s - skiing skills. Look for resorts with multiple slopes and trails for all levels (green-designated trails are for beginners, blue for intermediates and black for experts). All resorts mentioned offer expert ski instruction for all ages and levels, and have full equipment rentals. Most also offer child care, and all have snowmaking and excellent grooming.
Angels playing music, jugglers in Medieval costume, ice skating beneath an illuminated Heidelberg Castle, torch-lit paths, a town hall made into a giant Advent calendar - Europe’s Christmas markets are as varied as the towns and cities that host them. You can plan entire trips based on Christmas markets, with breaks for sightseeing and seasonal activities, such as concerts and performances.
These Christmas markets aren’t just for shoppers. They are as much about the experience and sharing local traditions of food, drink, music, costumes, folk art and festivities that are part of a long history beginning in the late Middle Ages. They give today’s December visitors a chance to see some of Europe’s prettiest villages decorated for the season, and business travelers a chance to do some after-hours shopping.
Having just returned from Peru, it’s easy to echo the sentiments of many visitors I met along the way. I love this destination, and so will your clients.
Peru offers the Amazon, the Andes, Cusco and Machu Picchu. It is a veritable foodie paradise, voted the Best Culinary Destination Award at the World Travel Awards in 2012. This gem of a country offers diverse, gorgeous topography with luxurious havens.
Inkaterra (www.inkaterra.com), a top tour operator in Peru that also owns superb properties, will create custom itineraries and take care of everything from the moment clients arrive until their departure, including accommodations, connecting flights, ground transportation, dining and all excursions. Their expertise, taste level, attention to detail and excellent guides guarantee the best in experiential luxury. Inkaterra properties and Aqua Expeditions (which can be booked through Inkaterra) are commissionable. Here are some highlights of my remarkable trip.
President Obama’s reinstatement, in January 2011, of a Clinton-era license category-”People-to-People”-permitting any U.S. resident to participate in legal group travel to Cuba, combined with an end to Bush-era restrictions on island visits by Cuban-Americans, has sent U.S. visitor numbers to Cuba soaring.
In addition to the reinstatement of Specific Licenses for People to People organizations and a General license for visits with relatives by Cuban Americans, President Obama also issued a General license for academic travel by educational institutions which again allows travel by undergraduate and graduate classes with a ‘structured educational program’ in Cuba for any length of visit, as long as the students are receiving credit for their visit.
Influenced by Arawak, Carib and African cooking traditions and peppered with recipes from around the world, the Caribbean is one of the most coveted regions for gastronomes. From food stalls and beach bars to Michelin-starred restaurants and food festivals galore, dining in the tropics is as much a part of the vacation experience as a refreshing dip in the ocean.
Fruits and vegetables from backyard gardens and organic farms, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and a myriad of spices and herbs are aplenty in every one of the countries that make up the Caribbean, and with chefs from all corners of the world showing off their prowess in the kitchen, gourmet adventures await travelers who come with hearty appetites. Whether it’s a plate of crispy conch fritters at a communal picnic table, snapper barbecued on an oil drum or an elegant dinner under the stars, dining in the Caribbean pleases even the fussiest of foodies.
Two summers ago, I took my then-12-year-old son, Gavin, to China. We spent the first part of the trip gliding along the Yangtze photographing the natural scenery and taking in the breathtaking views. I loved it, but he was completely bored. We went to see the Terracotta Warriors uncovered at Xi’an. His history textbooks had come to life, but one tomb was enough for him -- not three hours. Again, he was bored. However, things started to pick up for him when he got to play with a Chinese yo-yo in the Beijing hutongs with some local children, when he took a motorcycle sidecar ride to the Great Wall, and when he got to watch the chef-owner at the boutique Orchid Hotel (www.theorchidbeijing.com) prepare a gourmet breakfast of peppered eggs with coconut milk -- a dish Gavin still recalls as the best eggs he ever had.
The Indian state of Gujarat is located in the western part of the country, and offers a look at civilizations that date back as far as 4,000 years. Near the capital city of Ahmedabad, both Lothal and Dholavira are important archeological sites, displaying the ruins of ancient cultures. Gujarat is also known for its stepwells, or water buildings, which were once an important part of life in this region, providing water for drinking and bathing. There are over 120 stepwells in this state alone. In Gujarat, visitors should also be sure to see some of the Jain Temples in Palitana and learn about the Asiatic Lion, whose last home in the world is in the Gir Forest in Gujarat. Indeed, it is a colorful region, filled with much of the culture from bygone eras.