February 2017 Travel Column

What’s Hot in Luxury Travel for 2017

More Americans are planning luxury vacations in 2017, according to a new, nationwide survey of travel professionals.

Travel Leaders Group polled 1,240 of its travel agency owners, managers and frontline agents who book luxury travel about the trends they’re seeing for this year. About 30 percent of the respondents indicated that luxury travel bookings for 2017 are higher than they were in 2016, with approximately 52 percent reporting that bookings are about even with last year.

There are signs of growth, too, when it comes to transportation and lodging. About a quarter of the travel agents indicated that their 2017 luxury hotel bookings have increased somewhat or significantly, and the same percentage reported an increase in Premium (First Class/Business Class) airline reservations. In both cases, about half of the respondents said that bookings so far are about the same.

Cruises remain a popular choice. When asked to name the top three international destinations for their luxury clients in 2017, European river cruises came in number one, followed by Italy, Caribbean cruises, Mediterranean cruises and Mexico. Australia, the Dominican Republic, France, Jamaica and England round out the top 10.

Twenty-eight percent of agents said that their luxury river cruise bookings have increased somewhat or significantly, with the same percentages for other luxury cruises and bookings for suites on cruise ships. When it comes to luxury tour bookings, approximately 23 percent of respondents said that they’re up somewhat or significantly in 2017 compared with 2016.

Australia, Italy and Ireland routinely top the list of international “dream” destinations for American consumers. So it’s not surprising that they’re popular among luxury travelers, with many travel agents reporting that clients have booked trips to those spots for 2017.

Rome (and Vatican City), Tuscany, Venice and the Amalfi Coast are among the most popular spots for travelers headed to Italy. Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and Melbourne are at the top of the sightseeing list for Australia. Nearly all travelers to Ireland want to spend time in Dublin, but they also have the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry on their lists.

Travel Leaders also asked agents about their clients’ interest in a variety of future travel experiences.

Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated that their clients are already expressing interest in Crystal Luxury Air, a new venture from Crystal Cruises that will offer trips on a private jet – a customized Boeing 777 that’s been outfitted with luxurious in-flight bedding, state-of-the-art entertainment systems, a separate dining area, bar and lounge, an onboard chef and wine cellar. The inaugural 27-day round-the-world journey leaves from New York City Aug. 31 and includes stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok and Paris. Other trips, from 15 to 29 days, have been created around a variety of themes, from the South Pacific to iconic sites around the globe to a trip that will take travelers to some of the world’s best grape-growing regions and wineries.

For help planning a luxury vacation anywhere in the world, contact your travel agent.


Visiting Aarhus, European Capital of Culture in 2017

Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, has an ancient history and a youthful population that make it a lively and attractive destination in any year, but its designation as a European Capital of Culture means that in 2017, there’s even more reason to discover its charms.

The selection of European Capitals of Culture dates to the mid 1980s, when actress, singer and Greek Minister for Culture Melina Mercouri came up with the idea as a way to recognize the importance of art, culture and creativity. Athens was the first in 1985, and since then, more than 50 cities have been named. The program helps bring a renewed sense of purpose and community, and it gives some of the continent’s lesser-known regions a moment in the spotlight.

Located on the east coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, Aarhus is a port city of about 300,000 people that traces its roots to an 8th century Viking settlement. Today, it’s a university city and a center of scientific research. Aarhus has an eclectic music scene with something for every taste, including a jazz festival in July and the SPOT Festival of Scandinavian music in May; attractions like the open-air Old Town Museum, with more than 75 buildings that re-create a Danish market town; shopping in pedestrian districts like the Stroget; and outstanding restaurants, including several Michelin-starred establishments.

For its year as a Capital of Culture, Aarhus has more than 350 events planned, from theater, opera, dance and music to art installations to festivals that celebrate Danish food, culture and history, all organized around the theme “Rethink.”

One of the most ambitious undertakings is “The Garden – End of Times, Beginning of Times,” organized by Aarhus’ main art museum, ARoS, in collaboration with an international roster of artists. The installation will take place from April 8 to Sept. 10 in the museum’s galleries, at several venues around the city and stretching along the coastline, with the goal of exploring how human beings’ relationship with nature has evolved and been affected by urban life.

Fans of epic stories should pencil in the Royal Danish Theatre’s production of “Red Serpent” from May 24 to July 1. The Viking saga about a young man’s perilous journey throughout Europe and the Middle East will be one of Denmark’s largest-ever outdoor performances, staged on the grass-covered rooftop of the Moesgaard Museum. It’s in Danish, but the spectacle requires no translation.

Nordic cuisine – from beer to sausage and everything in between – will take center stage Sept. 1-3 at the Aarhus Food Festival. There’ll be tastings and workshops and gourmet picnics along the shore during northern Europe’s biggest food event, with an emphasis on sustainability, ecology and old crafts.

To see the Danish countryside like a local, hop on a bicycle. Cycling tours are planned in March, April and July as part of Culture by Bike. Along the way you’ll explore museums, discover hidden ruins, go swimming and sample some fresh local fruit and produce.

For help planning a trip to Aarhus, contact your travel agent.


Canada Prepares to Celebrate Its Sesquicentennial 

Canada is throwing a party from coast to coast in 2017 to celebrate its 150th birthday as a nation, making this a great year to discover what’s new and exciting about our neighbor to the north.

Ottawa, the national capital, will mark not only Canada’s 150th but the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup and the centennial of the National Hockey League. “Hockey in Canada, More Than Just a Game,” opens at the Canadian Museum of History in March. Fans can meet NHL alumni and get their pictures taken with the trophy itself in a Stanley Cup celebration March 15-18. From May 20 to Sept. 4, Ottawa’s 19th-century ByWard Market will be the site of an art installation built from shipping containers called “Inspiration Village” that will host events showcasing each of Canada’s provinces and territories. On Canada Day, July 1, there’ll be a fireworks display on Parliament Hill to mark the date in 1867 when British colonies were united into the Dominion of Canada.

Montreal and Quebec City are perfect places to get a taste of French Canada’s European charm. Quebec City, with its historic buildings, shops and cobblestone streets, is a festive spot year-round. A majestic fleet of 40 Tall Ships will be berthed at the Port of Quebec from July 18-23, offering tours and a host of family-friendly activities. In addition to Canada’s 150th, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday. The French theater troupe Royale de Luxe will bring giant marionettes to the streets of the Old Port May 19-21 as part of a weekend of activities highlighting Montreal’s past.

Halifax, on the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Canada, is the capital of Nova Scotia and a quaint port city with a rich maritime and Scottish-tinged history. Stroll along the boardwalk for shops and restaurants. Get a glimpse of the region’s past with a visit to a restored 200-year-old fishing village. The Tall Ships will also make a stop there, from July 29 to Aug. 1. And entrance fees for Canada’s national parks are waived for 2017, so it’s a good time to visit historic sites like the 19th century Halifax Citadel.

Cosmopolitan, multiethnic Toronto has planned a yearlong program of celebrations, commemorations and exhibitions dubbed “TO Canada with Love.” Among the highlights is a celebration that will take place June 30 to July 3 in Nathan Phillips Square to highlight the cultural and artistic diversity of Canada’s largest city. On May 27-28, Doors Open Toronto offers access to 150 historically and culturally significant buildings across the city highlighting 15 decades of Canadian architecture.

With soaring mountains and a scenic harbor, Vancouver is a terrific spot for travelers who love the great outdoors. Skiing, snowboarding, sailing and hiking are among the recreational activities available nearby. The country’s 150th birthday will be marked with events July 1-3 at the waterfront Canada Place, a parade and fireworks. From July 22-30, The Drum is Calling Festival will showcase the art, music and culture of Canada’s First Nation peoples.

For help planning a trip to Canada, contact your travel agent.


TSA Might Not Accept Some Driver’s Licenses Next Year 

Some travelers from a handful of states may be in for a huge, unpleasant surprise next year when they find that their driver’s licenses aren’t sufficient to get them through airport security for a flight within the United States.

In December, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began posting signs at airports alerting travelers that starting Jan. 22, 2018, state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards from Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington State will no longer be accepted as valid identification to get through TSA’s airport security screening. Travelers from those states will be required to present an alternate form of identification, even for a domestic flight.

It all stems from the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 with the goal of improving security and preventing fraud. The act established federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibited federal agencies ­– including the TSA – from accepting IDs that do not meet those standards. States were required to implement anti-counterfeit technology and institute more stringent requirements for proving identity and U.S. citizenship, or legal residency, before a driver’s license or ID card can be issued.

Over the past decade, states have been given time to bring their processes for issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards into compliance with federal law. As a result, the REAL ID Act’s restrictions have not yet been enforced at the nation’s airports. Most states have either complied or been given an extension by the Department of Homeland Security, and the TSA has continued to accept IDs from all states, regardless of their status. But the TSA has stepped up its campaign to notify flyers that a change is coming.

The deadline is spurring discussions among lawmakers in some of the affected states, so the situation could easily change between now and next January. Already, South Carolina and Oklahoma, two of the states included on the airport warning signs, have been granted extensions through June 6, 2018. (The TSA will update signs if and when states receive extensions.)

And it’s important to remember that the TSA will continue to accept IDs from all states for the remainder of 2017. But next January, security personnel will only accept state-issued driver’s licenses or ID cards from states that are compliant with the act or that have received an extension. By Oct. 1, 2020, every traveler will need REAL ID-compliant identification for domestic air travel. (And remember that this only applies to adults. The TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States. The companion will need acceptable identification.)

The TSA will accept alternate forms of identification, such as a passport, a passport card, a trusted traveler card issued by the Department of Homeland Security, a military ID or a permanent resident card. In addition, for an added fee Washington and Minnesota will issue their residents Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDL) that meet the new federal standards.

For help planning a trip anywhere across the United States or around the world, contact your travel agent.


Business Travel – Navigating Language Differences

These days it’s easy for even small companies to have a global presence and that means business travelers may find themselves taking a work-related trip to a country where they don’t speak the native tongue.

While business is frequently conducted in English, it never hurts to know a few words and phrases – or more – of the local language. It makes getting around and absorbing the culture easier, and it makes a good first impression. Plus, research has shown that the skills involved in learning a second language help keep your brain active and healthy.

Of course everyone learns in a different way, and there are many options.

Some learners benefit more from a structured classroom setting and the give and take between students and teacher. A class also puts you in the same room with other learners, giving you a chance to practice your conversation skills, which can be an invaluable experience. Check out a local college – or even your public library – to see if they have a class that meets your needs.

For people who can’t commit to a class, software programs offer the advantage of allowing learners to go at their own pace and sit down for a lesson whenever they have the time. They’re portable and versatile, available on a variety of devices, from a desktop or laptop to an iPad or smartphone, whether you’re using iOS or Android. Audio CDs that are geared toward conversation are another option, letting listeners learn a language while they’re on the go, whether it’s commuting, working out or working around the house. Rosetta Stone and Simon & Schuster’s Pimsleur are among the best-known brands.

Free smartphone apps like Duolingo and Google Translate are another good way to learn the basics of a foreign language. Duolingo’s brief lessons start with vocabulary before moving on to constructing short sentences. Google Translate lets users type in words or phrases in English and find the equivalent in dozens of languages.

Once you’ve decided to study a foreign language, what are the most important words and phrases to learn first?

It may sound obvious, but “Do you speak English?” is a good place to start. Many people in foreign countries learn English in school, so you’re likely to run into someone with whom you can talk.

Then there are the essentials. “Where is the restroom?” always comes in handy. Words like “help” and “emergency” are good to know. Numbers, especially 1 to 10, are helpful if you’re trying to buy something or giving an address to a taxi driver. Also, learn a few directional terms like right, left and straight ahead.

Of course, it’s highly important to be polite in any language. Learn how to say: “My name is” and where you’re from. Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, pleasure to meet you, good morning, good evening, hello and goodbye – and even how to make a formal toast – will go a long way wherever you are in the world.

For help planning a business trip anywhere in the world, contact your travel agent.

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