Savvy travel agents know their customers’ favorite destinations well. They make periodic visits to evaluate hotels, dine at the newest eateries, and test drive the latest amusements and attractions.
Las Vegas tops the list for some travelers and agents. Recently US Airways Vacations invited 39 agents to participate in the 8th Annual Las Vegas Scavenger Hunt with a 3-night, 4-day stay at the Aria Resort & Casino.
Québec City really knows how to give a party - and how to make the most of their cold, snowy winters. Every February they throw a 17-day extravaganza that engulfs the entire city in a joyous, often boisterous, celebration of all things snow and ice. Even clients who aren’t great fans of winter will find plenty to love here.
Until last spring, it had been two decades since I had seen Venice. I had forgotten how beautiful it is - with its grand piazza and winding canals; its palaces and churches, its gondolas and hump-backed bridges.
Held this year in St. Thomas, USVI, the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) is the Caribbean’s leading tourism conference, bringing together movers and shakers from the public and private sectors. With the theme “Realizing the Vision: Positioning Caribbean Tourism for Major Change,” the annual event was organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) in collaboration with USVI’s Department of Tourism and was held at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Beach Resort. “The theme dovetails nicely with the organization’s own vision for Caribbean tourism, which is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination,” said Hugh Riley, secretary general of the CTO. “If we seriously put our resources together, we could certainly achieve the 30 million visitor goal that we have our eye on.” Last year, the Caribbean received 25 million stay-over visitors with arrivals up by 4.3 percent during the first half of this year. If the pace of growth continues at the current rate, the region would reach the target of 30 million visitors by 2017. www.OneCaribbean.org
I never cease to be amazed at the ever-changing adult playground that is Las Vegas. I am there at least five times every year, and yet, there is always a new resort being constructed or renovated, a new restaurant or show opening, and new sites to be seen. It truly is the city that never sleeps. Trying to give a comprehensive list of these changes would take a book, so instead I will focus on the highlights of my past few trips.
Starting in mid-November, Europe’s Christmas Markets light up historic town squares and castle courtyards with traditional hand-made folk art crafts and home-baked goods, along with holiday performers in traditional hand-made costumes, even Medieval dress. It’s an ideal time to re-visit favorite cities or discover new ones, and combine the holiday experience with sightseeing, concerts, and, of course, shopping.
Whether it’s freezing winters or sizzling summers clients want to escape, Portugal has an answer. One is its southern coast, the sunny Algarve, a long-time favorite for European snowbirds. The other is a mid-Atlantic archipelago, closer to your US clients and almost undiscovered by tourists - the Azores.
Those nine volcanic islands offer beautiful land and seascapes, from the white beaches and terraced vineyards of Santa Maria to the waterfalls and dazzling volcanic lakes of Flores. In between are windmill-studded Graciosa, the colorful marina and lunar landscapes of Faial, and São Miguel, the largest island with geysers and hot springs.
In the middle of Medellin’s bustling business district exists a Zen-like park dedicated to feet. Barefoot Park is just one of the unique destinations to discover while in Colombia. Hidden between folds of lush Andes landscape, cities throb with visions of yesterday and the future, Botero art and bad traffic. The sprawling countryside really hasn’t changed over the years. It rains often, so flowers are everywhere. You experience a high here, not from its altitude or the drugs that the country is trying hard to eradicate. But because there is so much to learn, see and do.
No other region on Earth bridges two oceans as does Central America. Thanks to modern travel, divers are able to experience marine life in both. Following are the Atlantic and Pacific “hot” spots these countries offer.
Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney took to the stage set some 9,350 feet high at Ecuador’s Estadio De Liga stage, belting out a special version of “All You Need is Love,” which is currently being used as the background for a global advertising campaign with the market line, All You Need is Ecuador.
Targeting TV ads to 460 million people worldwide and selling tools to more than 20,000 wholesalers and travel agents on three continents, the small country of Ecuador, no larger than Colorado, is hoping to make a big impact on both visitor arrivals and investments from big businesses. The Eucadorian Minister of Tourism reported visitors to Ecuador grew by five percent in 2013; by June of this year, arrivals increased by 16 percent, fueling the expectation the country will have hosted some 1.6 million visitors by the end of 2014.
Ecuador’s dramatic landscapes range from the cloud forests of the Andes to the tangled mangroves and arid landscapes of the Galapagos Islands and counts five UNESCO World Heritage sites: the city of Quito, the Galapagos Islands, Sangay National Park, the Historic Center of Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca, and the Qhapaq Ñan - an Andean Road System. Ecuador’s cultural diversity is as compelling as its natural beauty as no fewer than 13 languages are spoken here.