The time is 5 a.m. The city of Marrakech, Morocco is breathlessly quiet. Suddenly, chanting begins to resound from a nearby mosque. Within moments it is followed by a chorus of guttural voices, emanating from over 100 minarets. Asleep on a rooftop terrace I am jarred awake by the thunderous Call to Prayer. This is my Moroccan alarm clock.
My family and I are spending several days exploring the markets of Marrakech. From our rooftop terrace we have a sprawling view of the city. The markets form a web of convoluted streets; alleyways thatched in bamboo and hopelessly tangled. From the central plaza, the streets radiate outward in a labyrinth capable of making anyone feel directionally challenged. In the distance loom the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
Departing from our rooftop we gravitate towards the plaza. By the time the sun had ascended, monkey-handlers and snake charmers are already welcoming the day. However, the cobras do not appear too charmed, their mouths sewn shut to prevent them from spitting venom. The skirl of shrill pipes is enough to make the most tolerant people insane. I pity the snakes that are subjected to it.
Along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline the temperatures are warm and humid, a sharp contrast to the cooler temperatures you’ll find in its bustling capital city of Nairobi. But it’s this coastline that plays host to a number of destinations not often associated with your typical trip to Kenya (if there is such a thing as a typical trip!)
A surprising escape to the island of Lamu will win bragging rights for your clients among their friends who mainly visit Kenya for Safari. Lamu is easily reachable from the country’s main airports of Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi. All flights land on Manda Island, just across the channel from Lamu.
Blending the hip and the historic, Israel constantly reinvents itself. In Jerusalem, new luxury hotels-including the country’s first Waldorf Astoria-are joining family-friendly attractions like The First Station, a stylish restaurant-and-entertainment complex in a restored Ottoman-era rail station. Along the coast, in and around high-energy Tel Aviv, discover another vintage train station, with hip restaurants and shops, plus the new Ritz-Carlton Herzliya, and trendy boutique hotels nestled in the White City’s 1930s Bauhaus buildings and ancient stone manors.
Southern Africa is home to some of the best safaris, natural wonders and luxury lodges anywhere on the African continent. Here we break down Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, all easily accessible from Johannesburg, and should be on your radar as an alternative for an African holiday. Last year, the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly was co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in their resort towns of Livingstone and Victoria Falls, the first time Southern Africa has hosted the UNWTO, solidifying their dedication to tourism.
Some of the most memorable experiences I have had in China involved food and drink. In X’ian I was wowed by the variety of dumplings at De Fa Chang Restaurant (www.dfc.com.cn). We sampled about 25 different kinds of dumplings (there are over 100 to choose from) in a variety of shapes - think avian species; fillings - potato, chicken, walnut; dough flavors - pumpkin, spinach, chocolate; and cooking methods - steamed, pan-fried, baked. What a treat after visiting the tourist sites! In Beijing I fondly remember our over-the-top royal banquet meal with Chinese American friends, who had relatives in the city. And, I’ll never forget those “finishing tea notes” of Great Leap Brewery’s (www.greatleapbrew ing.com) Yunnan Amber beer - infused for five days in Yunnan’s Dianhong black tea, which I drank in the congenial lobby bar at Beijing’s Orchid Hotel (www.theorchidbeijing.com).
The islands of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, stretch approximately 1,200 miles off the northeastern coast of Australia in the state of Queensland.
There are accommodations galore here, from family-friendly to private and posh. A trip to these islands will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to a tropical getaway unlike any other. And, while it may be mind-boggling trying to sift through all various islands and deciding which would be the best for your client, don’t despair. We’ve broken it down for you here with a sampling of some of the best options out there.
It has been 33 years since Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart converted a failing hotel near Montego Bay Airport into the very first Sandals all-inclusive resort. Since that time, Butch has been raising the bar for Caribbean hotels with each new property he has opened, and the recently opened Sandals LaSource in Grenada is his crowning achievement so far. Never mind that he was able to work flawlessly with government officials to negotiate a favorable environment to renovate and expand this resort, nor the fact that the work was completed in an astounding 10-month period. And while you can’t ignore the fact that Grenada’s leading hotelier, Sir Royston Hopkins of Spice Island Resort was the biggest island advocate, what is truly amazing is the resort itself. Sandals has been raising the bar with each of their new resorts, yet it is hard to imagine what could possibly be done in future resorts to improve upon this one.
Organized by Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) in partnership with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2014 was a resounding success at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The largest marketing event in the region attracted 1,246 delegates including buyers from twenty countries, tour operators, wholesalers, hoteliers, airline representatives and government officials. “We were especially pleased with the high level of optimism and enthusiasm this year,” said Richard Doumeng, president of CHTA. “This is a clear indication that interest is definitely increasing in the region.”
Honored as Hotelier of the Year, George Markantonis, managing director at Atlantis Paradise Island, was recognized for his commitment to staff training and implementation of sound environmental practices. The 34th recipient of the prestigious award, the industry veteran is also responsible for the One & Only Palmilla in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and the One & Only Ocean Club in The Bahamas. For more information please visit www.caribbeanhotelassociation.com
One is a shopper’s paradise, the other one is a myriad of sugar mills and heritage trails, and the third one is a national park with few of the distractions of the other two. Delightfully distinct, the trio that are the US Virgin Islands - St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John - are easy getaways with plenty of flights from the mainland and reliably warm weather all year round. “For repeat visitors, the trio each have their own personality with an abundance of new things to discover,“ said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism.“St. Thomas has new water-based adventure experiences, St. Croix Food and Wine Experience will debut a golf tournament allowing gourmands to blend another passion into their visit, and the Westin Resort on St. John will receive a face lift this year due for completion in the fall.”
With no shortage of ritzy resorts, splendid beaches, duty-free shopping, lively bars and Mother Nature Unplugged, Virgin Island Hotel Tourism Association is encouraging agent visits with a travel agent month in September that includes complimentary 3-night stays at participating hotels and resorts. Called the “immersion program,” it also offers discounted and gratis activities and excursions. The complete list is online beginning April 1. www.visitusvi.com
Most Americans have heard of the Panama Canal and in fact, it will be on most travel agents’ clients’ bucket lists, however, according to Guillaume de Vaudrey, owner of Cosmopolis Travel, there are a number of other things to do in Panama that should not go unnoticed.
The history of Panama is fascinating, it was a province of Columbia until the beginning of the 20th century and de Vaudrey says, “The culture there is very cosmopolitan. The main influence is Spanish, but also seen there today is a strong diversity of cultures from around the world.”
It was at the time when the Spaniards first arrived in Isthmus that building a route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was first conceived. And then, the work on the Panama Canal began.