Travel Risk Management: Are You Ready for a Crisis?

Introduction

If you know that business travel is not without its risk and the potential for crisis, then you need to read this article. In this article we are going to talk about the management and containment of crisis as it relates to travelers and travel managers. The objective of this article is to share with you the collective knowledge on managing crisis and significantly improve your ability to identify and manage a crisis but also improve your business travel efficiency.

During this article I am going to discuss travel risk myths, crisis management, plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your own travel risk management system for your travelers or travel management department.

Crisis by definition is something you didn’t have a plan for or something in which you are unprepared. Additionally, it can be a series of events that in concert create a crisis. Events or issues that occur, to which you have a plan and strategy, is merely an incident.

Crisis Management/Leadership

The first thing is to clarify what is the difference between crisis management and leadership. More importantly, which one is the more important?

Crisis management relates to the response to event/s that threaten your business, travelers or travel activity. The event leads and you follow with plans, decisions and actions.

Crisis leadership, on the other hand, is more about getting ahead of the events and issues to prevent, management and even contain the impact to your business or business travel activities. While management is a portion of the leadership demand, your actions and involvement lead the outcomes rather than a more passive wait and act approach with pure crisis management.

Crisis leadership is the less practiced of the two, but the most significant in terms of results and reduction in risk and impact. If you take nothing else away from this session, it should be that your focus should always be on Crisis Leadership, not crisis management.

Myths

There are many myths and half-truths about crisis, disruption and threats within the travel management sector. Much of this misinformation has originated from travelers themselves, media, travel managers, friends and family or so called “experts”.

For example, many travelers and planners are focused on terrorism. The reality is, you have a very, very small chance of being exposed or affected directly by a terrorist act. It doesn’t mean you should discount it as a threat altogether but it shouldn’t dominate your plans or processes if not a proportional threat to you and your travelers. Conversely, almost everyone overlooks motor vehicle accidents. Yet, they happen far more frequently, can have devastating affect on travelers and are the least common plan contained within company travel management departments.

Travelers and travel managers must be prepared, educated and have supporting plans for any event that has the potential to delay, disrupt or harm the traveler or the business.

The most common events include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Airline delays or cancellations
  • Airport closures or disruptions
  • Transport delays
  • Bad weather
  • Sickness and illness
  • Petty crimes
  • Hotel fires
  • Political disputes
  • Demonstrations and gatherings

Motor vehicle accidents within your own country can be stressful and dangerous but on an overseas business trip they can be 100 times more challenging and dangerous. Consider language, local authorities, first respond, standard of healthcare, families and support in your plans and initial response.

Airline delays and cancellations. They happen all the time but they are not just an administrative response. You may need to consider safety, transport, quarantines, security threats, government response and wide spread suspension of services to overcome the issue and maintain safety of your travelers.

Airport closures or disruptions. Failed systems, electrical problems, threats, weather, construction and so on can prevent you even getting to your flight. Consider the impact this has on your plans and how your traveler will need to possibly extend stay, move to alternate airport or find accommodation.

All other transport delays and disruptions can create crisis when everyone no longer has access to trains, buses, key roads or even water transport. Have a plan and add it to your immediate decision making process.

2010 and the commencement of 2011 has seen travel of all kind affected by natural disasters and weather. Weather and natural forces have and always will impact travelers. It does and will continue to occur. It is highly concerning how unprepared travelers and companies are for volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and general bad weather.

People get sick or feel unwell all the time. This is compounded significantly when traveling. Standard of care, language, access, cost, complications, choice and numerous other location based concerns will determine just how at risk your traveler will be. A single, “one-size-fits-all” plan or solution will fail and you need to be aware of these issues immediately with the onset of an affected traveler.

Crimes are a reality of any city in the world. However, travelers seldom know the risks and may be preyed upon by thieves and criminals. The loss of phones, money, and other items may seem less likely to constitute a crisis but when overseas, injured or not able to speak the local language, all these simple events can create a major concern for your business travelers. This can be amplified if you have a senior executive or a group of executives affected.

Hotel fires and emergencies are more common than most people think. The immediate threat to an individual is fairly obvious but the impact that the lack of accommodation choices can create from the temporary or permanent closure of a hotel is a much bigger concern. This was graphically displayed during the Mumbai terror attacks (as extra ordinary as the event was) when most of the best/preferred hotels were now unavailable in a key part of the city. This removed thousands of rooms for business travelers and forced many to cancel or significantly alter travel plans just because there were a lack of suitable accommodation options, whether affected by the events or not.

Any event that alters the political stability of a location or region or results in thousands of people out on the streets constitutes a risk to your business travel plans and travelers. They can happen spontaneously or take time to develop. The immediate dangers and the ongoing disruption can have a major impact on your business or traveler.

Again, plans, preparation and thought to these issues will greatly reduce the impact and improve your business too.

Now that we have removed the most common misconceptions, let’s focus on the management and containment of a crisis.

Crisis management

The key to successful crisis management is planning, training, plans, decision-making and adaptability.

Planning

Given the issues previously covered, you now have a better insight into how and why planning is important to remove the more emotive issues from the realities of real business threats and events.

Planning needs to include multiple departments and perspectives to be truly effective. One of the greatest weaknesses I see regularly is that departments continue to manage the risk of travel through multiple departments with multiple plans. The input and plan needs to be unified. Depending on the company, it may include travel managers, security, HR, finance, marketing, C-suite and operations.

All plans need to be continuously updated, location specific, aide in the decision-making process and modular enough have elements extracted quickly and effectively. Modern, effective plans embrace technology. Rapid, efficient access to information, along with running updates is the hallmarks of a modern sustainable plan, regardless of the size of the issue or the company.

Training

No plan is effective without training and rehearsal. Training, whether through simulations, drills or live, full-scale exercises are vital to the success of any crisis situation. Such sessions don’t need to be boring or overly complicated but must include travel managers and planners along with the more common crisis and emergency managers.

Increasingly, training is becoming a mandatory requirement for key positions and roles. It can be linked to internal HR processes but must support the business objectives and measurable on how it reduces the risk to people, business, brand and travel demands.

While the plan creates the framework for crisis decision-making, teams can learn a lot from training on how and when to adapt their plans. How the team interacts, strength, weakness, leaders, followers, limitations, tools and many more planned and surprise outcomes are possible with effective training.

Adaptations

No plan will completely script all the events, issues and options available for every plausible travel delay, disruption or crisis. You need to be able to adapt and evolve from the original plan and intention. This can only be achieved with planning, plans and training.

Solutions So what do I need in my plan?

Here is the best travel risk management content for your plan:

  • Objective(the single most important part of any travel policy)
  • References
  • Scope
  • Legal
  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Reimbursements
  • Limits
  • Priority/precedence
  • Management Authority/ies
  • Situations

Procedure will likely cover:

  • Planning
  • Resources
  • Tools
  • Authority
  • Executive Decision making
  • Limits
  • Budgets
  • Training
  • Compliance
  • Pre-trip admin
  • Providers
  • Booking
  • Accommodation
  • Airlines
  • Ground Transport
  • Safety and Security
  • Health and wellness
  • Emergency
  • SOP/Actions on
  • Insurance
  • Travel Monitoring /tracking
  • Reporting
  • HR
  • Entitlements
  • Threat/risk levels
  • Shelter in Place
  • Relocations/evacuations
  • Management Authority
  • Review

Don’t forget your risk assessment will need to include the key elements:

  • Traveller
  • Location
  • Activity
  • Support/Resources
  • Response

Conclusion

There you have it. Now you know what is required, how do you rate your current plans and preparedness?

You now have the most relevant issues and areas to focus upon that will reduce or contain the majority of incidents you may face your travelers will be safer, your business more profitable and your costs will be contained by reducing your exposure to expensive crisis events.

We have debunked popular travel threat myths, identified the difference between crisis management and leadership, outlined plans and options so you can immediately compare or improve your own travel risk management system for your travelers or travel management department. Review your plans and make the immediate improvements.

You will know when you have an effective crisis management system for your travel risk management strategy when you have little to no crisis.

You may have numerous events or incidents but you have a plan, you’re prepared and your decision making is fast and consistent. If not, you have failed and you will run from crisis to crisis on a regular basis.

Travel Insurance FAQs

There are a lot of misconceptions related to travel insurance, and understandably most people aren’t as well versed in the fine details of this type of cover as I am – I can’t say that I blame them! However, many misconceptions put people at risk of spending unnecessary amounts of money on areas that could and should be covered by their policy.

So, I’ve compiled this mini travel insurance FAQ to assist those who have doubts, worries or questions about what they should look for.

Q: What should I do before going abroad?

A: Make sure you have checked the FCO Travel Advice for the countries you are visiting. Check you have sufficient money and that your passport is up-to-date. Take a photocopy of your passport details and keep in a safe place. Check what inoculations and visas are required. Note down the numbers and addresses of the UK embassy and consulate in the country you’re traveling to.

Q: Should I take out travel insurance before my holiday?

A: I may be a little biased on this one, but yes! It is extremely important that you take out adequate travel insurance even for short trips or visits to Europe, and absolutely imperative in countries outside the EU where different conditions make illness more likely and affordable medical cover that bit more difficult to get hold of. It also covers for cancellation as soon as you book your trip.

If you travel to a country, or part of a country, against FCO advice, it is unlikely that your insurer would meet any claim, however. Should the FCO advice change after you have booked a holiday, check the position with your tour operator and travel insurance company.

Q: Should I be looking at single trip or annual multi trip travel insurance?

A: Only you can answer that really – although single trip is (generally) cheaper, it does exactly what it says and covers you for just the one trip. By contrast, annual multi trip travel insurance will cover you for the whole year on various breaks, making it the choice if you think you’re likely to travel that much. You may find that just taking two trips a year would make annual multi trip travel insurance cheaper than the single trip variety!

Q: What sort of reason for cancellation is valid to ensure cover?

A: As long as your reason is within the scope of cover provided by your policy, then you should be entitled to claim in most cases. Legitimate reasons for cancelling your trip could include an illness or death in the family (as defined by your policy), freak weather conditions suspending travel for 24 hours, burglary or damage to your home, being a victim of criminal assault resulting in you being medically unable to travel, being called up for emergency military service or jury duty (subject to the specific terms and conditions of the policy). Likewise, if the hotel or resort (for independent travelers) you’re due to visit suffers from a terrorist attack in the days leading up to your travel, you will generally be able to claim.

Q: Who pays if I need to be hospitalized overseas or flown back to the UK?

A: If you have proper cover, the travel insurance company should pay such fees. If not, the cost will fall to you or your relatives and friends.

Q: Is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) the same as health insurance?

A: No. The free European Health Insurance Card shows that the holder is entitled to reduced or free emergency care only within the EU. You will still need travel insurance to ensure you will be covered fully in the event of illness or injury. The EHIC card will help though, by reducing your initial outlay before you can be reimbursed by your insurance company.

Q: Is my pre existing medical condition a big issue?

A: Generally, yes. Check the wording of your policy to ensure it covers pre-existing medical conditions. Often they’re not covered unless you pay an extra premium, and if you fail to declare your condition when you buy your cover, you’ll be unable to claim on it. As always the key advice here is to check the policy wording with a fine tooth comb.

Q: How can I find out whether it is safe to travel to a particular country?

A: It is strongly advised that you check the FCO Travel Advice section of their website. This information is regularly updated and should give you solid advice on where is and is not safe to travel (remember, areas officially outlined as ‘unsafe’ will seldom be covered by travel insurance policies).

Q: Is it safe to travel after a terrorist attack overseas?

A: Unfortunately, there is no such thing as risk-free travel, and the absence of advice against travel to a particular country or area does not imply that the FCO guarantees safety in that country or area.

I hope this travel insurance FAQ has proved useful – it’s only really scratching the service and each policy is different, but with this advice you should be in a better position to shop around, next time you need to purchase travel insurance.

Prominent Architects in Phoenix

Working with outstanding Phoenix real estate agents is one of the best ways to find the perfect Phoenix homes that will best meet you and your family’s needs. Once a Phoenix realtor understands the type of property you wish to purchase, he or she will apply that criteria when searching every Phoenix real estate listing until the best property matches are found, thus saving you time and money. As you begin settling in, you will have ample opportunities to explore this beautiful city. Phoenix is home to several prominent architects whose talent is on display in remarkable buildings in Phoenix that they have designed.

Phoenix-based Gould Evans Associates, LC + Wendell Burnett Architects were honored with the 2007 American Institute Honor Awards for Architecture for their design of the Palo Verde Library/Maryvale Community Center owned by the City of Phoenix. The connection of the mind and body was used as a design theme that features two equally sized “volumes,” which are lit at the bottom and top, so you can see the activity going on inside from the outside. The library is housed in one side, and the gymnasium in the other. Care was taken to incorporate “green” building products, including floor tile made from recycled tires and cork, while walls were made from oriented strand board made from recycled wood. Formaldehyde-free insulation was also used.

The award-winning Phoenix architectural firm of richard + bauer Architecture was the design organization that created the Meinel Optical Science Research Building for the University of Arizona in Tucson. Principals James Richard, Kelly Bauer, and Stephen Kennedy’s building features a concrete wall that is covered with red-bronze copper treatment to relate in tone to bricks used on the campus. To give the feeling of a darkroom, openings allow light into the building, and the light plays off the rooms within. For their work on this important building, richard + bauer Architecture were also awarded the 2007 American Institute of Architects Honor Award.

There still occasionally come on the Phoenix market vintage homes designed by Ralph Haver. Haver was a prominent Phoenix architect in the 1950s who made his mark in contemporary-styled single-family homes. His designs often feature window walls, clerestories, beam ceilings, carports rather than garages and a low pitch to the front facing gable roof style.

Probably the most famous architect in American history has his foundation in Scottsdale, and that is Frank Lloyd Wright. Known for organic architecture that allows the building to fit into the context that the land itself provides, Taliesin West in Scottsdale is where Wright had his home, his studio, and was the site of his architectural school. Archives of Wright’s work are housed at the Foundation as well.

Choosing Right Home Furniture

A house without furniture often sounds like a flower without fragrance. Furniture takes away the emptiness of a home, and makes it attractive and functional. For those reasons, it’s important to choose the right furniture items that function, add to the appeal, reflect your taste, and provide a great value for the price. It turns out not too many shoppers exhibit satisfaction when they are exploring choices for quality home furniture. One of the major reasons for this dissatisfaction is the lack of priorities that a shopper must set to determine what exactly to look for. Also is there a group of buyers who finds it a nerve-wracking task to select right furniture for their homes out of the multiple choices being offered by internet today.

If you have happened to be facing any of the afore-identified situations, you should seek some guidelines for a better understanding of finding and buying good-value furniture and accessories. Below is brief list of points-to-note to be kept in mind and considered before going on a shopping spree:

Room and requirements: Every house comprises different rooms; the main being living room, drawing room, dining room, guest room, and TV lounge. Each room requires different furniture items for its distinctive classification. For instance, a dining room requires to be filled with a dining table set instead of sofa set whereas a bed room needs to be graced with a dressing-table set instead of a utensil storage cabinet. It is important to determine what room requires what kind of furniture.

Similarly, if you intend to buy a sofa or a cabinet, create an appropriate place for it in your home. A sofa fits well in a living room or a drawing room whereas cabinet should find its way to a bedroom or kitchen depending upon its use.

Furniture replacements: If you decide to redecorate your old home by replacing its furniture with a new line, do it systematically. Choose the living room to begin with, for being the most occupied place of your home. This is where your family members or friends sit, relax, chat and enjoy. Make sure you find and buy living room furniture items in colors and designs that match with the colors of walls and/or floor of your room or house. Once done with your living room, go with the redecoration of a guest room, drawing room, dining room, so on and so forth.

Furniture size: Consider room space before settling on any furniture item. If your room is too large, choose mirrored furniture which will make your room look small.

Wholesale living room furniture: Go for online stores of wholesale furniture where you’ll have more chances to get your favorite furniture pieces at the most competitive prices and get discount deals on your purchases.

A common misconception attributed to cheap furniture is that it is neither durable nor reliable. If truth be written, cheap furniture is the line of furniture that is offered at a cheap price. Quality remains the same though. Hope, you are pretty sure how to choose and buy right furniture for your home now!

Why Travel Solo – My Reasons For Travelling Solo

Many of you reading this article are thinking to yourselves ‘why travel solo… are you crazy’, while others are reading this in total agreement. Like for all travel needs, individual tastes, interests and goals will be the concern for any person traveling.

For me personally I prefer to travel solo myself but It all boils down to the type of trip you’re taking and what you plan on doing… obviously there are times where group or couple travel is inescapable and is of course still going to be a great experience… all travel is. These times could be team getaways, events such as weddings or corporate and clearly for a romantic getaway or honeymoon where I’ll assume that you would prefer not to travel solo.

Maybe you don’t have a partner or perhaps you didn’t know anyone else you wanted to travel with you… but you know with all your heart you want to go, have to go. Are the people who said no going to stop your travel? If so, why? Is it safety concerns, is It the unknown? Those questions might be on your mind, but think about it this way… doesn’t it make it more exciting? Wouldn’t you feel more accomplished if you did it by yourself?

Let me explain why I travel solo and the reasons why.

Avoid The Drama Of Others

Drama is often inescapable as all people including myself has some sort of drama in their lives. However in my experience below

A few years back I backpacked Europe and after about a week or so met up with a group of friends for roughly a month. In this time the couple traveling with us had a bad break up, which in turn almost severed another relationship. That night while this couple was fighting, bags were snatched, wallets stolen and because of the public outburst questioned by the police… and this was just the beginning of the drama, we still Christmas to get through after this. When the whole group of my friends had left I felt relief and like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

You may not want to travel solo but if you’re single then my recommendation is that you at least don’t travel with a couple, not without at least some other single people there.

Indifference Of Ideas

All travelers have their own ideas of what they want out of their travel and so they should. Compromise can be much easier in a couple and certainly traveling solo but in a group it can be a nightmare. You may want to go to a museum you’ve always wanted to see where as the others in your group want to just hit the pub.

Whoever has the numbers or the dominance will most likely win which puts you in an awkward situation. Yes, you could leave and go the museum by yourself but then what do you friends think of you and say about you later on. You may also not be contactable by phone, being in another country without a sim card which makes it much harder to meet up and find out when others will be back etc.

I remember road trip we took just 2 hours away from home with six guys and we had one of the worst weekends away possible. Some of us wanted to go prawning, others wanted to go somewhere else for fishing and some of us just wanted to hang out at the hotel by the beach and drink. The problem was we were all stubborn and because we only had the one car and two sets of keys it caused arguments left, right and centre.

Living In Close Quarters

When traveling with others, particularly for long periods of time you need to ensure that your travel buddy is someone you could live with in close quarters for however long it is you are traveling. We all have friends that we know that are good friends but you could never live with them, maybe they are messy, maybe they are snappy and the list goes on. If you can’t live with them… what makes you think you can travel with them?

Be Who You Want

A bonus to traveling solo as well is that others you meet along the way and you get to be the person you’ve always wanted to be or at least be able to interact differently with others. I truly believe you meet a lot more people when traveling solo as you have more reason to talk to others and you will meet more like-minded people to you as there are no indifference to ideas of what to do.

These are four of the main reasons why I travel solo but there are many more personal reasons like independence my goal when backpacking Europe was to get out there in the world and do it all myself. Escapism is another big reason for me sometimes with work and the same old routine you just need to escape the daily grind and get in some alone time.

Traveling solo isn’t for everyone and isn’t for all kinds of travel but if you’re after a fulfilling holiday and experiences then there really is nothing like traveling solo. You will not only meet more like-minded people, get to be who you want, gain independence and a sense of fulfillment as well avoid an indifference of ideas, living in close quarters and avoid anyone else drama while you enjoy what you want to do on your dream holiday. This is why I travel solo.

School Bus Safety Tips For Drivers and Their Children

Imagine: millions of students nationwide start their day by getting on and off the school bus. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that year after year, pedestrians who are usually below the age of 19 have died in school bus-related crashes. More school-age pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. than any other time of day. The NHTSA has even formulated several safety tips for both drivers and children:

Take note of the crosswalk/school zone sign.

 

  • Drivers: This means that during mornings and afternoons, these areas are likely to be crowded with children — some even on their bicycles or in-line skates. All of them are no match to a bus, so extra care in part of the driver is needed.
  • Children: Do what you learned in pre-school: look left, then right to see if vehicles or people are going to pass before crossing the street. If you could, go along with other children/people using the crosswalk.

Learn the “Flashing Signal Light System”that school buses use.

  • Drivers: Alert motorists if you are preparing to/stopping the school bus using the yellow/red light.
  • Children:Just because they are in a stop position does not mean there is no more danger. Take note of the danger zones around a stopped school bus, namely, the front and back (which are the most dangerous zones) and the driver’s side of the bus.

Slow down.

  • Drivers: Be alert around school zones. Young people may be rushing about on their way to class or to meet a parent.
  • Children: No need to rush when getting on or off. Wait until the bus hits a full stop, with the doors wide open before getting in. Use the handrails to avoid falls.

Visibility.

  • Drivers: For a vehicle such as a school bus, you really can’t see what’s directly below you. Be careful before speeding on.
  • Children: When crossing in front of a bus, put a safe distance (say, 10 feet) between the bus and where you plan to cross. Use sidewalks and walkways where you’re sure the driver sees you.

Backing up.

  • Drivers: Be aware if children/bicycles are crossing behind you.
  • Children: Never be the children/children-in-bicycles who cross behind buses.

To enforce traffic safety, the state of Florida has enforced tougher penalties for passing a stopped school bus while loading or unloading children. Previously the fine was $65.00, however now they are required to attend a 4-hour basic driver improvement course. This course explains Florida traffic laws and provides a refresher on defensive driving techniques.

So, for all drivers before you rush to pass a stopped school bus remember that the school bus uses the red flashing lights for a reason. And for pedestrians and children always but safety first and proceed with caution when exiting or entering the bus or in school zones.

Tips When Buying Home Furniture

When buying for home furniture, there are a lot of tips that you need to be aware of in order to get the best out of the quality and from the price. There are numerous stores that sell furniture for the home and you may get confused on which place is the best for you. It is never recommended to buy the first furniture that you like. Always look for more items and selections first so that you can make sure that what you are buying is the best in the market.

The bedroom is one place in your home that you may want to redecorate. When choosing home bedroom furniture the best tip to follow is finding the best and the most comfortable. The bedroom is your private sanctuary and it is very important that your bedroom furniture is comfortable. For instance, when you are buying a bed for your room, choose the one that you find at ease with. Do not be afraid to test out the bed, its foam and how it feels once you lay on it. Also do not forget to measure the size of the bed that it can fit perfectly in your room. For the home bathroom furniture, choose the ones that can fit into the space of your bathroom. Keep it elegant and simple.

For the furniture in your home, the trick is finding the perfect design and color that can match your place. One home furniture store can carry countless furniture that have different color, designs and materials to suit your home. Some of them may have offers of making made to order furniture if you cannot find the design and the color that you want. These made to order furniture may cost more than the regular ones in the store, but if you have the budget and you are willing to wait, this could ensure that you will get the furniture that you want. When shopping for home furniture, it is important that you are getting items that are of good quality. You may want your furniture to last for years. Paying for cheap but low quality furniture will only cost you more in the long run because you will need to repair or buy new furniture from time to time.

When choosing the sofas or armchair of your living room, the rule is like that of the bedroom, choose the sofa or armchair that can give you comfort. Your guests or family will be sitting in these sofas when you get together or watch television, a comfortable sofa means a lot. Also make sure that the sofa can match your room color. It does not have to be the same color, but something that can compliment your home. There is also other home d├ęcor furniture that you may want to add like coffee tables, side tables or a small chair or tea table. These are good furniture to add to your room if you have enough space. Overcrowding a room with furniture is never a good idea. It will only make your home look smaller and disorganized.

Travel Pre And Post Internet

Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been traveling 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 traveled 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 traveling 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 license 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 travelers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiences

Travel Post-Internet:

In my 40 years of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the simplest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them if they had “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.

The Internet now gives travelers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, What to do, Who to book with and How to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every travel option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a travel agent to make reservations and buy tickets except to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce glossy brochures and offer all inclusive packages or tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to know when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and activities about where to find them. There is no longer any need to only use our local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and travel operators wherever we have decided to go.

Some travel agents operate their own tours, some are both wholesale and retail, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining knowledge, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveler. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists and some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not necessarily an expert.

Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if retail agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ and their ‘kee’ skills to a global audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travelers now have the ability to seek answers to the 5 W’s of travel and the important ‘How to’ save money and offset costs by having information just a click away.

And then it occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full retail prices as we are doing for ourselves what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travelers could use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Obviously this two tier pricing is not often available but travelers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I think I have found it!

The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at The Top Travel Club and I even found a dot com for it. All travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own travel arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using our voucher program.

I am inviting travel operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travelers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.

I am also inviting Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their skills to a global audience of travelers and to the members of this new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want experts to showcase their services.

This opportunity is available to the travel trade at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices to club members and visitors to the website using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare prices to direct-booking travelers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travelers get the savings because they make their own arrangements.

The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top travel vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around 150 travel operators on-board. Every week we add more travel operators with more choices for members. Currently you can get savings on accommodations, adventure travel, boat charters, culinary tours, hike, bike and dive tours, auto and RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single travel, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the internet at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The future growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air ticket consolidators who want to deal directly with consumers.

The way I have traveled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every travel opportunity with the ability to do their own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to find all of this without needing endless hours of searching.

To find out more about the new way of cost offsets for travel please go to The Top Travel Club and my apologies for some of the spelling (traveler / traveler) but that is what I was taught. As long as we all understand the meaning, vive le difference!

The Health, Medicinal Benefits of Garlic – Part 1 Getting Heart Healthy!

Part 1: Health, Medicinal Benefits of Garlic:

There are many reasons that adding raw garlic to your diet will increase your health. In part 1 of this article you will learn 10 facts about how garlic affects your health.

1. Garlic supports a healthy heart. It can help you lower your bad cholesterol levels, and prevent hardening of the arteries, among many other benefits for your heart.

2. Organic garlic has a higher amount of sulphur in it, and the higher this amount the more health benefits there are.

3. Garlic that has been aged has more antioxidants than garlic that is not aged.

4. Garlic can be used in diabetics to lower blood sugar, or continue to keep it low.

5. Too much garlic can cause irritation to your bowels.

6. One of the compounds of Garlic can be used as an anti-fugal.

7. Microwaving garlic will completely kill the antibiotic and anti-fungal properties of it.

8. By crushing fresh organic garlic you will get the most medicinal use out of it.

9. The fresher the garlic and the freshest chopped or crushed the more taste you will get out of it.

10. Garlic has been used for over 5,000 years for medicinal purposes, starting in India.

From reading this you can conclude that by buying raw organic garlic bulbs and only opening them right before you crush or chop them for immediate use, you will get the most medicinal purposes out of your garlic. The smaller the garlic pieces when you are done chopping, mincing or crushing the more of the healing components you will get out of it, these components are activated when you cut the garlic, as time goes by the benefits will diminish, that is why it is very important to only get the garlic ready just before using it. You may also want to note that by using garlic this way you will get more taste out of it, so you can actually use less.

Benefits of Collaboration in the Luxury Travel World

The luxury travel industry has been the core of my business world for many years. In my role as marketing consultant have seen travel companies grow and fall as the trends for vacations and short breaks changed in line with needs for the industry’s most important component – the customer.

From just one holiday or vacation a year, the trend has grown to a pattern of two maybe even three vacations. For those with more disposable income, a sprinkling of short breaks throughout the year has become a typical indulgence… until now.

With the onset of the financial recession from 2008 onwards large families and travelers in their 40-50s were hardest hit in terms of the number and quality of holidays taken. Excited at the opportunities afforded by budget flights and exciting destinations many families looked forward to a few weeks in the sun with cheap food and drink plus the opportunity to pick up some duty free luxuries and a tan.

But the fall out from flight route closures on the cheaper airlines, the rising costs of hold baggage and the affects of currency fluctuations have made larger numbers of potential holiday makers taking the cheaper option and staying at home.

The younger singles market still managed the short luxury breaks to European cities such as Prague and Barcelona and the island retreats of Ibiza and Mallorca. But even this market is being eroded as salaries dip in line with recession. Currency fluctuation and exchange rates have hit the cost of bed and board rises dramatically in the once celebrated destinations. Add in the effect of ‘global warming’ on the conscience of the younger travelers and its easy to see why so many of the budget holiday companies are falling on difficult times.

And what about the luxury end of the market? Believe it or now but some of the top end companies are having a very profitable time. How? They have talked to each other, joined forces and shared resources to help bring their marketing costs down and in many cases their market coverage up.

I have seen groups of top Scottish Hotels who might have been fighting for a customers attention, become a collaborative marketing group whose aim is to sell the destination first and then divide up the spoils among their spa resorts, golf complexes, boutique hotel partners and city centre apartments.

I have also seen small specialist travel agents collaborate by forming a collaborative venture specializing in high end luxury travel destinations – each member having a unique destination or service. With one innovative marketing message they have a louder voice than they might have as individual travel operators.

On the customer side collaboration is also proving very beneficial. Instead of taking lots of individual holidays there is a growing trend for groups who might have booked separate hotels and a similar destination to team up and book a large villa or apartment. Combining their entrepreneurial skills, purchasing skills and cooking skills they are able to eat well, organize great activities while staying at some of the most exclusive holiday destinations.