Home Travel News Most Visited Cities, ViaHero, L’Étape du Tour, “Shoot for the Stars,” Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Most Visited Cities, ViaHero, L’Étape du Tour, “Shoot for the Stars,” Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The Top 10 Most Visited Cities in the World: Mastercard Index

temple in Bangkok

According the latest edition of the annual Mastercard Destination Cities Index, Bangkok, Thailand received 19.41 million international overnight visitors in 2016 — a figure that’s expected to grow another 4 percent this year to 20.19 million.

Space Needle and the Seattle skyline
Photo by Deb Roskamp

Rounding out the top three spots is London, which is forecast to receive 20.01 million international overnight visitors by the end of 2017, and Paris, which trails at an estimated 16.13 million.

Globally, international overnight visitor arrivals across all 132 destinations studied have grown by 55 percent since 2009, points out the report.

But the biggest movers and shakers around the world lie mostly in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, which has seen a 15 to 24 percent growth in international visits over the last seven years.

The list of fastest growing destinations, for instance, is led by Osaka which saw 24 percent growth since 2009, followed by Chengdu (23 percent) and Colombo (20 percent).

The report also looks at spending power among visiting tourists, and found that international visitors to Dubai are the biggest high rollers: In 2016, tourists spent US$28.5 billion.

That figure is expected to grow another 10 percent this year to $31.4 billion.

Dubai enjoys a big lead over its next competitor, New York, where international tourists spent $17.02 billion, a figure that’s expected to rise a modest 1.5 percent this year.

One of the biggest losers this year is London, where the fallout from Brexit is expected to result in negative growth (-5 percent) in tourist spending.

The index also revealed spending trends in some of the top 20 destination cities. For example, visitors to Seoul spend the most on shopping (57 percent), followed by London (47 percent), Osaka (43 percent) and Tokyo (43 percent).

Visitors to Istanbul and Prague can expect to shell out the most on food and dining (34 and 29 percent respectively), while accommodation eats up most of a traveler’s budget to cities like Paris (45 percent), Milan and Rome (both 40 percent).

  1. Bangkok, Thailand – 19.41 million visitors in 2016 (20.19 million forecast for 2017)
  2. London, England – 19.06 million visitors in 2016 (20.01 million forecast for 2017)
  3. Paris, France – 15.45 million visitors in 2016 (16.13 million forecast for 2017)
  4. Dubai, UAE – 14.87 million visitors in 2016 (16.01 million forecast for 2017)
  5. Singapore – 13.11 million visitors in 2016 (13.45 million forecast for 2017)
  6. New York, USA – 12.70 million visitors in 2016 (12.36 million forecast for 2017)
  7. Seoul, South Korea – 12.39 million visitors in 2016 (12.44 million forecast for 2017)
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 11.28 million visitors in 2016 (12.08 million forecast for 2017)
  9. Tokyo, Japan – 11.15 million visitors in 2016 (12.51 million forecast for 2017)
  10. Istanbul, Turkey – 9.16 million visitors in 2016 (9.24 million forecast for 2017)

The NAACP Warns that “Travelers — Especially African Americans … Could [be] Subject [to] Disrespectful, Discriminatory, or Unsafe Conditions.”

Courtesy Tim Winship

When Muslim Advocates and the NAACP issue a joint letter accusing the U.S. airline industry of racism, it’s big news. And when the NAACP, the “nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization,” follows that up with an advisory specifically questioning the racial policies of the nation’s largest airline, American, it’s nothing less than a media firestorm. Indeed, all the major news media covered the story exhaustively. And “American Airlines” has been a trending Twitter topic for several days.

That’s where matters stood earlier this week, after the NAACP warned black travelers not to fly with American Airlines, following a series of incidents involving African-American travelers. “In light of these confrontations, we have today taken the action of issuing a national advisory alerting travelers—especially African Americans—to exercise caution, in that booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The advisory cited four specific incidents that were suggestive of “a corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias on the part of American Airlines.” The NAACP expressed concern that “the examples cited herein may represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to American Airlines’ documented mistreatment of African-American customers.”

Predictably, American disputed the charges, and has signaled its willingness to meet with NAACP representatives. In a memo to the airline’s 120,000 employees, company CEO Doug Parker addressed the issue as follows:

(W)e were disappointed to learn of a travel advisory issued by the NAACP regarding American Airlines. The mission statement of the NAACP states that it “seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination.” That’s a mission that the people of American Airlines endorse and facilitate every day – we do not and will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have reached out to the NAACP and are eager to meet with them to listen to their issues and concerns.

And so matters stand today. An accusation of bias from a noted civil rights organization. And a denial by a billion-dollar multinational company that has an enormous financial stake in being perceived as being unbiased. The media attention will persist for a week or two, bringing more heat than light to the topic, before petering out in a vacuum of new developments. And then …?

A charge of systemic racism can probably never be conclusively proved or disproved; there is no final arbiter. Whatever the underlying merits of either position, it will play out in the media, and in the court of public opinion.

ViaHero: How to Have a Local Plan Your Personalized Trip

Judy Koutsky

When Kevin Maloney started to plan his trip to Iceland, a friend mentioned a new service called ViaHero. “I knew there was a lot to see in Iceland and I had a short period of time. I didn’t want to spend a lot of personal time doing the research,” Maloney says. “My goal was to have an expert map it out for me.”

He was looking for someone with expert knowledge of the area, but tailored to exactly what Maloney wanted to do on vacation. “It wouldn’t have been difficult identifying some of the big landmarks, like Blue Lagoon,” he says. “But it would have been hard for me to identify great local food spots, or natural springs that aren’t in the guide books.”

So he signed up for the service and received a local “Hero” in Iceland.

“My Hero was awesome to work with,” Maloney tells me. “Very helpful and nailed the activities that we wanted to do after a short online interview.” By recommending a great restaurant that opened earlier than others, Maloney’s Hero made sure he’s be able to have a worthy breakfast upon landing from his overnight flight.

“Instead of searching around, I knew exactly where to go.”

ViaHero allows travelers to select a local to plan their trip. The service has locals in Cuba, Japan, and Iceland so far, but it’s expanding quickly. “Every trip is personalized by an in-the-know local, called a Hero,” explains Ben Preston, Co-Founder and Head of Growth for ViaHero.

“The Heroes provide travel consulting, on-the-ground arrangements, and build a personalized guidebook and custom maps with local recommendations,” Preston says. “Travelers save time, discover hidden gems, and have everything they need at their fingertips on the ViaHero mobile app.”

Many independent travelers lack the time and local knowledge to expertly plan an international trip, especially if it’s off-the-beaten-path. And increasingly, people want unique, local experiences.

“A traveler can spend over thirty hours planning a trip, they can wing it once they get there, or they can use a travel agent who lacks local knowledge and is incentivized to sell the traveler a more expensive trip,” says Preston. “It’s easier, cheaper, and faster to have a local arrange everything.  Our users have been able to drive classic cars in Cuba, see the Northern Lights at hidden spots in Iceland, and have the best food in Tokyo—all thanks to their local Heroes.”

ViaHero launched in 2016 with Cuba as the first destination. The company capitalized on a surging interest in Cuba despite the lack of online travel recommendations due to the long-upheld Cuba travel ban.  ViaHero expanded to Iceland and Japan in 2017, and it’s slated to expand to destinations across South America, Asia, and Europe in 2018.

How Does ViaHero Work?

“ViaHero is like a travel agent for the Airbnb crowd,” says Preston. The service targets travelers who want to travel to places like Cuba, Iceland, and Japan without paying for an expensive, guide-led group tour.

ViaHero uses actual locals, or Heroes, to plan each trip from $25 per day. For example, a traveler who wants the inside scoop on Cuba can have Lianet, a Cuban journalist and self-professed foodie, on their side.

ViaHero also provides rich, useful trip plans in an offline mobile app. This includes trip consulting, booking recommendations, and a personalized guidebook. ViaHero’s premium plan, which costs $40 per day, includes features like offline map navigation, on-the-ground phone support, and restaurant reservations.

While Maloney speaks very favorably about the service, his one caveat was the maps. “They didn’t do a great job of mapping out the landmarks for our self-driving tours. They did identify the best ones to see—and nailed it—but didn’t provide detailed directions on how to find them. They work with the maps.me app, but it wasn’t intuitive.”

But Maloney says he would use the service again, and would recommend it to others. “It’s great for those who want to get the most out of a vacation.”

“Uncommon Flavors of Europe” Campaign Will Promote Three Delicously Italian Ingredients for Three Years

Petaluma, CA (October 30th, 2017) –  Under the “Enjoy, it’s from Europe” program adopted by the European Union, a new campaign titled “Uncommon Flavors of Europe” will bring the attention of consumers to three products from Italy for the next three years through grocery store promotions in the U.S. and Canada: Asiago PDO cheese, Speck Alto Adige PGI ham and Pecorino Romano PDO cheese.

The program “Enjoy, it’s from Europe” promotes Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) foods from Europe and provides information on the EU quality system which strives to protect names of quality agricultural products.

The Uncommon Flavors campaign kicked off this year with press conferences in Brooklyn, New York on October 23rd and in Montreal, Canada on October 25th where producers of Asiago PDO, Speck Alto Adige PGI and Pecorino Romano PDO were in attendance from Italy.

The campaign will market the partner products across web, television, radio, print advertising, digital campaigns, social media, supermarket demos, trade trips to Italy and through a “learn & earn” page on the campaign’s official website.

The Uncommon Flavors of Europe “Learn & Earn” page will give industry professionals and consumers the opportunity to go online and learn more about the three partner products and complete a quiz in order to earn entries in a drawing for a trip to visit the production zones of each product during the campaign.

About The Partner Products

Asiago PDO is made from milk from cows that graze on lush fields in the provinces of Trento and Vicenza and parts of the provinces of Padua and Treviso. Fresh Asiago tastes of creamy milk and melts easily on your tongue while aged Asiago varies from sweet and yeasty, to nutty and even notes of salted caramel, all depending on the age ranging from 4 months up to 15 months or more.

Speck Alto Adige PGI, made exclusively in the Alto Adige region of Italy, is a unique ham that melds the air-curing traditions of the Mediterranean with the smoke-curing traditions of the Alps. The process begins with the careful selection of high-quality, lean pork legs.  The deboned meat is massaged with spices, garlic, bay leaf, juniper, pepper, rosemary, and sea salt. Each producer’s specific rub is a treasured family secret.

Pecorino Romano PDO dates back 2000 years and proudly continues the rich, long history of ancient Roman sheep’s milk cheeses in Italy. The sheep still graze on wild pastures filled with native flora on the island of Sardinia, the Lazio region and the province of Grosseto. Only there can Pecorino Romano PDO be made from fresh whole sheep’s milk from October to July.

About PDO and PGI

Of the EU quality certifications PDO certified foods have the strongest possible link to original historical practices, because their ingredients must come from and their production must occur within the natural environment in which the product developed. PGI foods are made with traditional production methods in their historic places of origin.  While raw ingredients can be sourced outside the production area but within the EU, all ingredients are scrupulously monitored for quality.

Sports Tours International Invites Amateur Cyclists to L’Étape du Tour 2018

L'Etape du Tour cyclistsSports Tours International, the UK-based provider of vacations built around nail-biting, world-class cycling and running competitions, is taking reservations now for amateur cyclists who want to participate in L’Étape du Tour 2018, an opportunity to tackle a mountain stage of the 2018 Tour de France.

L’Étape du Tour 2018 is scheduled for Sunday, July 8, 2018, in Annecy, France. The finish is at Le Grand-Bornand, a resort in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. This finish was used in the 2009 Tour de France on Stage 17 when Alberto Contador famously went against team orders and left Lance Armstrong on both the Col du Romme and the Col de la Colombière.

Riders experience highs and lows while traversing a distance of 169km and climbing to heights of up to 4,000km, just like the pros when the 2018 Tour de France begins on July 7 and runs through July 29. For example, the Col de la Colombière will be the final climb for Stage 10 (Annecy to Le Grand Bornand, 159km) on July 17.

L'Etape du Tour cyclists at the Alps

Riders and their guests will enjoy a festival of cycling over the weekend in Annecy. Lake Annecy is a focal point of Annecy, an alpine town known for canals and cobbled streets. Annecy is well known for the heritage of its buildings and natural landscape. It is situated beside one of the purest lakes in Europe, at the foot of the Alpine massifs of the Aravis and the Bauges, but close to Switzerland and Italy.

L'Etape du Tour cyclists at the start lineSports Tours International’s L’Étape du Tour 2018 four-day/three-night tour package includes guaranteed entry when booked through Sports Tours International. With direct-to-the-public entries nearly sold out, Sports Tours will become one of only a handful of operators who can guarantee entry to the event. Also included in the package are accommodations at a range of hotels, roundtrip airport transfers from Geneva, overland bike transfer, bike rental and storage, complimentary coach accommodations for traveling companions to witness the excitement, three breakfasts, and, depending on the hotel, three dinners, staff support along the race course and more. Per person, double occupancy rates begin at £519 and go up to £699 for four-star accommodations. Self-drive packages are also available. While guaranteed, an additional cost is the actual entry fee to L’Étape du Tour 2018.

For non-riders, a free coach from Annecy to the finish in Le Grand Bornand is offered with return to Annecy later in the day.

For further information, go to L’Étape du Tour 2018

“Shoot for the Stars” Winners Announced by Global Connections

Global Connections, Inc. (GCI) has selected exceptional photos from nearly 1000 entries in its 12th Annual “Shoot for the Stars” Contest.

First, second and third prizes were awarded in each of the three categories: Wild and Fun, Family & Friends, and Landscape. In total, prizes were valued at more than $3,000 overall.

“Another year, another amazing collection of photos from GDV members,” said Melanie Gring, GCI’s VP/Strategic Alliances. “Our members shared their memories from worldwide travels and it was a tough decision to limit our winners to only nine images.”

“It really is exciting to see all the places and activities our members experienced on their vacation,” she continued.  “We’re particularly fortunate these photos are so great because we use them in member collateral materials, on the website, and in testimonials.”

Family and Friends Category winner: Daniel and Paige R's photo of Joshua Tree State Park
First prize in the Family and Friends Category went to Daniel and Paige R., Beavercreek, Ohio: “Selfie at Joshua Tree.”
the winning shot of Villa D ’Este’s Oval Fountain (Italy) in the Landscape Category
Raymond and Angela B., Orlando FL submitted the winning shot of Villa D ’Este’s Oval Fountain (Italy) in the Landscape Category.
Executive Choice's winner: Gary and Rebecca K's photo along the Coastal Path near Kapaa, Kaua
Gary and Rebecca K, of East Bethel, MN took home the “Executive’s Choice” for their shout-out to Global Discovery Vacations along the Coastal Path near Kapaa, Kauai.
Wild and Fun category winner: Royal Caribbean Cruise photo of Giovanni T. and Morgan K., Perth, Australia
The first prize in the Wild and Fun category was awarded to Giovanni T. and Morgan K., Perth, Australia for a photo taken during their Royal Caribbean Cruise.

First place contest winners were awarded a $500 Global Connections Inc. vacation credit, good towards condos, cruises, tours and more.  Each second- place winner received a free activity fee and the prize for third place winners was a one–bedroom “Expressway” condo vacation.

The Executive’s Choice Award winner had the option to select from any of the three prizes offered and this year’s winner– for their photo taken on the beach in Hawaii–selected the $500 vacation credit.

Non-Traditional Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving

Roast turkey feasts, food comas, and football marathons are all perfectly fine Thanksgiving traditions. But if you’re looking to shake things up this year, check out these alternative ideas for T-Day.

Spend Time with Your (Extended) Family

“Thanksgiving is typically a time to gather the clan together for a feast. But now that it’s easier than ever to find out about your heritage through services like Ancestry.com, maybe it’s time to expand the table even more.” Says Phil Sylvester from WorldNoads.com.

Did your DNA swab turn up ancestral roots in Italy? Were you amazed to learn you’re actually 1/16thPolynesian? This year, why not travel to the lands of your cultural heritage and share some pasta or pokewith a long-lost cousin?

The winner of World Nomads’ Relative Distance contest, Hannah Murray, will soon be heading to South Korea to trace her family history. “My father met my mother while doing a homestay with her family in South Korea,” Hannah told us. “She left us when I was two and I was raised by my incredibly loving father. I know nothing of the culture, language, or land that my mother came from. I’d love to explore the lifestyle and terrain that nurtured her.

Since I’m an only child and my father passed away last year, I’m having to rethink what the word ‘family’ means. In order to have it have relevance to me, I’m going to have to change it and make it broader than it was before.”

Put the “Give” in Thanksgiving

Obviously, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks – but it can also be about giving back. If you’re grateful for all you have and want to help people (or animals) who aren’t as fortunate, volunteer opportunities abound.

Give Thanks for Natural Wonders

The world is an extraordinary place, but you don’t need to travel beyond US borders to find astounding natural beauty. Thanksgiving weekend is a perfect time to slow down your pace and be grateful for river-carved canyons, snowy peaks, unspoiled valleys, and sandy shores.

By November, the Northern Lights have already begun their yearly show, and Alaska’s aurora belt is one of the world’s most active. At Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which features the largest array of glaciers and 16,000-foot-plus mountains in the US, you’ll get spectacular scenery day or night. (But be aware daylight hours will be few, and park services even fewer.)

If you’re more about barrelling down mountains than gazing up at them, Thanksgiving marks the opening of ski season for many US resorts. Here’s a list of some of the best snow playgrounds in the States.

If you’d rather scuba dive than snowboard, head to these parks for water lovers. One more reason to be grateful: Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida is now open again after suffering the impacts of Hurricane Irma. This park, about 70 miles west of Key West, is made up of seven small islands surrounded by coral reefs. The 200 shipwrecks strewn around its shoals mean it’s heaven for snorkelers and divers.

You’ll also be gratified to know that whether you’re trekking, climbing, kayaking, or diving, World Nomads travel insurance can cover you.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world.

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