The Herald-Dispatch |


The Travel Professor
Join me on a journey across the broad spectrum of interesting travel topics. We’ll discuss destinations domestic and abroad, some familiar and some off the beaten path. We take a look at suppliers like cruise lines, air carriers and tour operators and find their bargains and special offerings. Got questions? Email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

America's Caribbean Paradise: the U.S. Virgin Islands


Another American Caribbean Paradise (no passport required) favorite of mine and many other travelers is the USVI short for the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Here you are surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean with an average temperature ranging from 77F in the winter to 83F in the summer. Each of our three major islands – St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John – possesses a unique character of its own.

The U.S. Virgin Islands provides the perfect destination for traditional vacationers, adventure travelers, divers, snorkelers, shoppers, beach lover and is also an ideal setting for corporate meetings. Their year-round warm temperatures, first-class accommodations, exciting leisure activities, and professional business atmosphere offer something for everyone. Visitors to St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas will discover the unrivaled convenience and distinct personalities of the islands that set the USVI apart from other Caribbean destinations.


Whether you're looking for a quiet, secluded inn a few steps away from a white sand beach, a vacation packed with kayaking, scuba diving, and hiking, or luxurious accommodations a stone's throw from world-class golf and shopping, the U.S. Virgin Islands have exactly what you want.

When traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens enjoy all the conveniences of domestic travel – including on-line check-in – making travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands easier than ever. As a United States Territory, travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require a passport from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.


Major airlines offer daily service into the territory, including direct flights from U.S. cities such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, and Charlotte plus the USVI are a short commuter flight hop from Puerto Rico.


This summer you can take advantage of a special Sizzlin’ Sampler promotion. This package includes a complimentary fourth night, $300 air credit, $50 worth of certificates for attractions, a $50 dining certificate and a $500 coupon booklet containing retail special offers. The Sizzlin’ Sampler is valid for bookings made from March 15 to October 15, 2009* for travel between April 15 and October 31, 2009 and is based on a four-night minimum stay. Reservations for this promotion can be made through your favorite travel agent or with a number of tour operators including Apple Vacations, Certified Vacations Group, the Mark Travel Corporation, MLT Vacations, Travel Impressions, US Airways Vacations and Vacation Express.

As usual I recommend that you deal with a local agent. You should be able to locate someone who has been there or has graduated USVI Specialist program. Or feel free to contact me.

Happy travels and I’ll talk about each island in future posts!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Caribbean travel is still possible even without a passport

For those of you who enjoy the pleasures of a Caribbean vacation and do not have a passport they are a couple of options still available. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, both United States territories, permit US citizens to travel there without a passport. But please if future travel plans calls for foreign travel get started on your passport today.

Puerto Rico is the eastern most islands of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, approximately a thousand miles (2 ½ hour flight) southeast of Florida and just east of the island of Hispaniola-home to the Dominican Republic & Haiti and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rich Port in Spanish PR as the locals refer to the island is basked in brilliant sub tropical sunshine and its terrains range from palm-lined beaches on four cost lines to rugged mountain ranges, gently rolling hills, and dry desert-like areas. The island boasts 20 designated forest reserves. The most notable is El Yunque the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. Forest Service.

Spanish and English are the official languages, but Spanish is without a doubt the dominant language. Knowledge of Spanish will be very useful, although English is widely spoken. (Sometimes you will find yourself surrounded by Spanish speakers only, but be sure that in every store, restaurant, medical and/or government facilities, they would search around and find one person, who knows enough English to help you.)

An agreeable climate is one of Puerto Rico's most attractive characteristics. Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, with an average annual temperature of 80°F (26°C). Puerto Rico enjoys year round summer temperatures. The dry season is December to March. Note that temperatures in the mountains are significantly cooler than the coast, so if you intend to travel inland bring a sweater for the evenings regardless of when you visit.

Puerto Rico is a complex island with Spanish Caribbean culture found in the architecture and attractions of the island. Abundant beaches provide water activities such as diving, sailing and surfing. Hiking opportunities abound particularly in the rainforest of El Yunque; bird watching and whale watching can also bring a thrill for any seasoned traveler.

Personally I enjoy the hustle and bustle of San Juan the capital city. It is both modern and old. The Condado beach area of the city features elegant beachfront hotels, high energy nightlife, casino gaming wonderful dining. A short drive away is the neighborhood termed “Old San Juan”. To me it whisks you back to the Spain of Christopher Columbus and the age of Spain’s empire in the new world. Narrow cobblestone streets offer plenty of duty shopping and fine Spanish-Caribbean dining. The architecture magnificent palaces adorned with iron grill work and the fortress El Morro makes this area a great walking tour.

Away from the metropolitan San Juan area you’ll discover many of the other secrets of the island. Whether it is a long weekend getaway or a longer vacation PR makes a great foreign yet familiar tropical getaway. Air service to the island is excellent with most major US carriers offering daily service with familiar name brand plus local hotels provide a wide range of rates and amenities. Another money saving option is to look into booking a tour package that bundles your air, hotel and other surface features.

If you venturing away from San Juan check out staying at some of PR’s small country inns called paradores. These quaint places offer amazing service and allow you to mingle with the locals.
Enjoy Puerto Rico I sure did. For more information contact your travel agent or favorite travel supplier.


Got questions? Email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New 2009 Travel Requirements for Travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean

Currently all individuals traveling by air outside the U.S. are required to present a passport or approved travel document to enter/re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. Beginning on June 1, 2009, the requirement will be extended to those also traveling by land and sea.

It is my understanding that now only a valid passport or passport card will be accepted. Gone are the good ole days of a drivers license and birth certificate. In most locales your local post office is the place to start your passport application process. To obtain a passport you'll need an official birth certificate, government issued photo id card, the application and appropriate fee.

The new requirement is part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which is overseen by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security. For more information, see the
State Department Summary.

For more information be sure to review the policy on the U.S. Government's official
WHTI website or contact your travel supplier.

Happy travels!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Making money from travel sales

I last posted about the legal difficulties being by YourTravelBiz.com. They promised a get rich quick become an instant travel agent approach to travel sales.

Well I don't think you can become an instant millionaire but I do feel that some people can be successful in selling travel.

To be successful as a seller of travel you need to have product and destination knowledge along with sales and customer service skills. You don’t acquire these instantly by making a payment.

These skills are learned and acquired along the way. Industry knowledge followed by lifelong learning is important in any field but even more vital in the travel agency business as the only constant is change.

The travel industry has always embraced education and today offers a wide array of on-line and at the destination training. One of the perks has always been the familiarization (industry jargon for educational) trip.

The Internet and the computer have altered the way the travel products are sold. The travel agent is still heavily engaged in the travel product distribution system. There are many legitimate host travel agencies that work with independent contractors and do not charge enrollment or monthly participation fees while other hosts have elected to utilize the pay as you go route.

If you’re interested in learning more about this or any other travel topic email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.


Happy travels!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Problems for the "instant travel agent" business

Back in the spring 2008 I wrote about multi-level marketing firms like YTB (yourtravelbiz.com) and their efforts to recruit referring travel agents. In my opinion their promise of instant wealth and unbelievable reduced rate or free travel benefits was all a marketing pitch.

I was skeptical of their claims and reported later that these card mills had run into the legal system. On Aug. 7, 2008, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr filed suit against YTB (also known as yourtravelbiz.com), its affiliates and founders attempting to end the pyramid scheme and stop YTB's false and misleading marketing campaign. The state of Illinois quickly followed with comparable allegations.

Under a recently announced agreement by Brown YTB is prohibited from issuing travel credentials in California and must pay $1 million in penalties and restitution to California consumers. Brown stated the agreement will "stop the deceptive marketing of [YTB's] largely unprofitable travel Web sites and prohibiting the company from charging consumers nearly $500 to recruit others into its endless chain scheme."

In a statement, Brown said: "YTB falsely promised customers they could get rich quick by selling travel online. In reality, customers were reeled into an elaborate pyramid scheme and most never earned a dime. Today's settlement ends YTB's pyramid scheme by arming consumers with hard facts and eliminating the need to sign up for this largely unprofitable Web site."

I support this action of shutting down the so called card mills that issue instant credentials. I have not heard of the Illinois proceedings but I expect them to mirror the California decision. These firms are no different than the diploma mills that cranked out a degree for a certain fee.
What still surprises me is that many well educated advanced degree holders opted for the get rich, instant travel credential route. They paid their dues in grad school so why in the world did they think that could purchase additional professional credentials.


That being said I still believe that people can earn a profit while functioning as a home based/part time travel agent. I know that you can affiliate with a properly credentialed host travel agency without paying a large start up and /or monthly fee. There are some host agencies that do not have any fees.

I'll explain these options next week. The Travel Professor is getting away for the Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mexico here we come

The major cruise lines have added Mexican ports of call back to many of their upcoming sailing so business will be returning to normal shortly.

Tour operators are continuing to fly to the resort areas and in order to fill up seats they are offering some super special rates. Check with your travel agent.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More on National Travel & Tourism week and our elected officials

Demonstrating their passion for travel, thousands of industry employees took to the streets of more than 30 US cities on May 12 to demonstrate their support for travel and its importance to state and local economies. The U.S. Travel Association organized the events, in part, to provide an outlet to the 2.4 million Americans whose jobs depend on the business travel that came under attack earlier this year by select policymakers and sensational media coverage. According to an analysis by Smith Travel Research and the U.S. Travel Association, the travel industry lost nearly $2 billion in January and February 2009 due to mass cancelations of business meetings and events.

The Tri-State is prepping for a large soccer tournament this summer so just imagine the lost revenue for area hotels, restaurants and other shops if this event was cancelled. All inbound travel –pleasure and business are key economic drivers in many communities both locally and nationally. Keep America traveling!

I encourage prudent spending of resources and openly agree that the lavish spending of some officials and organizations must be controlled but the vents must go on. Contact your elected officials and let them know that you support business, convention and meeting travel. Ask them to back off legitimate expenses but continue to expose extravagance.

Sure the president of the company may deserve the penthouse suite but why not put the staff and entourage across the street at the more affordable property. They all don’t need to stay in the $500.00 a night place.

Contact your elected officials at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and tell them to support the travel industry and help get America traveling again. Don’t let them ground the travel industry

We will all profit from this economic stimulus package if Congress gets it right on the positive side travel industry.

Got travel questions? Email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DiscoverAmerica.com

As millions of Americans search for deals and discounts to build their summer travel plans, the U.S. Travel Association together with all 50 state tourism offices and more than 100 convention and visitors bureaus have launched www.DiscoverAmerica.com.

This site is being portrayed as the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States. This one-stop travel planning source features special deals and offers to help U.S. residents save time and money and get on the road this summer.

On this site they’ve brought together a wealth of information and made it easy for travelers to research and located great destinations, activities and deals. This mega site houses official content from all the states and the largest destinations and offers some great tools to help you plan where to go and what to do.

There are more than 7,000 pages of official content supplied by all 50 states, the five U.S. territories, more than 100 cities and regional destinations and more than 3,000 popular trip activities. This site will continue to with the addition of new destination and attraction profiles.

DiscoverAmerica.com compiles the most-trusted and official sources in travel, from state tourism offices and convention and visitors bureaus to agencies such as the National Park Service and Scenic Byways. Other reliable brands in travel information such as American Express, Fodor’s, Google Maps and Weather.com are also represented.


It is an impressive almost overwhelming yet useful site. Before planning your next USA getaway be sure to visit www.DiscoverAmerica.com. These local travel pros are paid to tell people where to go!

If you are experiencing data overload after browsing this site check with your local travel agent. They should be able to sort things out and work with you to craft your dream getaway.

Got travel questions? Email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.


Happy travels!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

U.S. Travel and Tourism Fun Facts

Did you know that travel and tourism generates $115 billion in tax revenue for local,
state and federal governments? If you place 115 billion one dollar bills end-to-end, they would circle the world 438 times.


Did you know that direct travel-generated payroll totals $189 billion and that 1 out of
every 8 American jobs is created directly, indirectly or is induced by travel and tourism?


Did you know that the travel and tourism industry is one of America’s largest service
exports? International travelers spent more on their visits to the United States than U.S. residents spent while traveling abroad, creating a trade surplus of $17.6 billion for the U.S. in 2007.


Did you know that spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $2 billion a day, $84.3 million an hour, $1.4 million a minute, and $23,400 a second?

Did you know that just a 1 percent increase in U.S. worldwide market share would
equate to 8.8 million more visitors, $15 billion more in expenditures, 153,000 new jobs, $3.9 billion more in payroll, and $2.4 billion more in federal, state and local tax revenue?

Note: 2007 preliminary data, updated April 2009 provided by the Tourist Industry of America

Monday, May 11, 2009

National Travel & Tourism Week

This week marks a nationwide a promotion by the travel and tourism industry. I'll be providing some key talking points during the week.

Did you know the economic impact of the Travel and Tourism (TAT) industry on our nation's economy:


Travel fuels the economy by strengthening our economy by contributing $740 billion in expenditures by domestic and international travelers.

Direct travel expenditures produce $115 billion in tax revenue for local, state and federal
governments.

Each U.S. household would pay $988 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by
the travel and tourism industry.

Sources: U.S. Travel Association, 2007 preliminary data, updated April 2009
*U.S. Travel Association survey conducted by APCO Insight, in partnership with the Kellogg Business School
**Williams, K. (1991). Avoid Burnout: Take Vacations. Management Accounting (New York, N.Y.) v. 73 (August) p. 14

Get involved and help sell your local community as a great place to visit, spend time and most importantly MONEY!

Contact the director of your local visitors and convention bureau today and get involved.

Talk with thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Visit Mexico

Well, it appears as if the worst of the flu hype is over.

As restaurants, clubs, school and other businesses begin opening its doors again; it appears as though life will go on in Mexico. And hopefully the tourists will return.

Here’s a short 4 minute video Visit Mexico that will familiarize you with many of the features and attractions of this great destination.

Some of the benefits that I like about Mexico are that it is foreign yet familiar place to visit. Getting there is fairly easy with plenty of nonstop or single connection flight. Most of the resort destinations have been designed with the American traveler in mind so English is widely spoken here. Value for your dollar is also another major plus. Mexican vacations are much more affordable the comparable Caribbean or European getaways.

Due the flu scare many travelers have canceled their Mexican vacations or selected alternate destinations and Mexican tourism revenue is down, way down. I expect that there will be interestingly priced travel bargains and incentives offered to jump start the return of tourists to Mexico.

Viva la Mexico!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More on Mexico, the media & the economy

Mexico has been hammered by what in my opinion was irresponsible journalism. The entire travel industry has been impacted by this "quest" for coverage.

Billions of travel dollars have been left unspent and unearned due to cancelled trips and the fear factor. Jobs and companies have been hurt just in the name of providing the "news".

Another current buzz today is economic stimulus. Let's put Mexico and travel into our economic stimulus packages. Get out and get going to Mexico or anywhere. Stimulate the economy and spend.

Modern Mexico is a wonderful mixture of people, native and foreign, their past and present all melted together. The country offers wonderful treasures of its native populations, the architecture of its colonial past, vibrant modern beaches, modern mega resorts and more. It offers great value and a wide range of experiences for the traveler. It is a foreign destination yet a familiar one that reminds many American travelers of the Grand Strand of the Carolinas.

The media has been irresponsible in their reporting of medical issues and safety concerns in the country. Mexico continues to be a great vacation destination and places like Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas have report few if any flu cases. Drug violence has been localized to towns near the US/Mexican border and is not rampant across the country. Places like Tijuana, Nogales and Juarez were never on the real tourist maps and if you’ve ever been to a border town you’ll understand why. If you have not been here then please don’t worry about missing out.

There are still plenty of wonders in our neighboring country. To discover more about the magic of Mexico go to
www.visitmexico.com or contact your local certified Mexican travel specialist. If you don’t know any specialists then feel contact me at thetravelprofessor@gmail.com as I’ve been one for years.

As part of my certification requirements I’ve got to visit Mexico periodically so the Travel Professor has planned a December group cruise sailing from New Orleans. We’ll spend a few days in the Crescent City then head out to sea and visit the island of Cozumel.

It’s a couple of days in the French Quarter then some more aboard a Fun Ship all to satisfy a continuing education requirement. It could be worse like Alaska in January.

Viva la Mexico!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Cinco de Mayo

In yesterday’s post I left the impression the after the battle of Puebla the French immediately left Mexico.

The French reinforced their army and eventually captured Mexico City. Maximilian only ruled until 1867 as increased support from the Americans and a strong national Mexican freedom movement enabled the overthrow of the French ruler. He was executed and his bullet ridden shirt-a national symbol of freedom and liberty – still hangs today in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle museum.

Today Mexico City is a large urban center full of life and sightseeing activities. Here you’ll discover Spanish colonial architecture, broad plazas, native Mexican ruins and world class museums.

Click
here to learn more about the history of Mexico and www.visitmexico.com to learn about all the great Mexican destinations.

If Mexico appears to be a destination you’d like to visit contact your local Magic of Mexico certified travel specialist. They are a wealth of knowledge and can assist you in crafting that perfect Mexican getaway.

Viva la Mexico!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cinco de Mayo facts

I’m sorry but tomorrow the 5th of May is not Mexican Independence Day as it seems to appear. Mexico declared its independence from mother Spain on midnight, the 15th of September, 1810. And it took 11 years before the first Spanish soldiers were told and forced to leave Mexico.

So why is Cinco de Mayo a Mexican celebration? And why should we gringos (Americans) savor this day as well?

For the natives it is celebrated because on the morning of May 5,1862 near Puebla Mexico a force of 4000 Mexican soldiers smashed and defeated a combined the French and traitorous Mexican army of 8,000. This defeat sounded the end of French intervention in Mexico.

A little known historical fact is that about 5 months prior to this battle the French had landed in Mexico (along with Spanish and English troops) on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President (and Indian) Benito Juarez. The English and Spanish quickly made deals and left. The French, however, had different ideas.


Under Emperor Napoleon III, who detested the United States, the French came to stay. They brought Maximilian a Hapsburg prince with them to rule their new Mexican Empire. Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.

The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz was on the march to attack Mexico City when it was ambushed and routed at Puebla.

Many historians also feel that this defeat of a European power in the New World kept foreign nations from allying with the Confederacy. The American Civil War was moving into its second year and this moment it appeared that the Confederate States of America (CSA) were winning the struggle. Theories have been presented that European intervention on the behalf the CSA would have greatly changed the eventual outcome of our American conflict.

This is a day that celebrates freedom and liberty, two ideals that both nations-Mexico and the USA honor and respect. Therefore as a supporter of these principles and as a friend of old Mexico I’ll hoist a “cerveza fría” or two on Cinco de Mayo .

Modern Mexico is a wonderful mixture of people, native and foreign, their past and present all melted together. . It offers wonderful treasures of the native populations, the architecture of its colonial and vibrant modern beach resorts.


It is both a value and great place to visit. Once the current health concerns are cleared up i'm sure that there will be some excellent travel incentives to Mexico.

Viva la Mexico! Viva la Mexico!



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine flu virus starting to look less threatening

I recently read where a couple of computer models forecast that about 1700 cases of "swine" flu can be expected in the USA.

Based on a population of 306 million people isn't 1700 an extremely low amount to warrant 24/7 coverage? Granted I feel sorry for those folks that contract the illness but why all the media hype and over coverage?

In my opinion it is just another example of sensationalised irresponsible journalism. And no I don't buy the line that they're just doing their job and reporting the news.

Who do I really feel sorry for? Sure it's the sicks folks but how about the people and companies that work in the tourism industry. I do applaud the precautions these industries are taking to ensure the health and safety of their passengers and customers.

Just try to imagine how these businesses and their employees have been impacted. I also empathize with business and vacation travelers whose plans may have been disrupted.

Lastly how many people have shut themselves in and are riding out this new crisis. After all aren't they victims too?