Monday, March 28, 2022

Advisors' Creative Solutions for Getting their Clients Tested Before Travel

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

"COVID-19 testing" has become one more point that travel advisors need to add to their pre-departure checklists for clients. It is one of many.  Avril Winkle, owner of Destinations Travel Services in Sterling, IL., was asked, how much more work does a single booking takes now, as opposed to pre-pandemic. She said, "Oh, my gosh, lots of extra hours of work."


COVID-19 testing has added another complicated layer to trip planning in 2022, especially with test shortages and difficult-to-predict turnaround times from labs. Though many believe shortages and delays are a short-term problem, testing before travel is likely here to stay for at least some time. Here is how a smattering of advisors is handling it.


Winkle talks to clients about what they are willing to do to travel and are split them into two main groups. One is fully vaccinated and boosted and likes the idea of destinations that require everyone to provide proof of negative COVID-19 tests so they feel as safe as possible. The other is not vaccinated, does not want to jump through hoops, and will probably end up going somewhere without said hoops to jump through, largely Mexico and the Dominican Republic.


In her area, the Chicago suburbs, tests are easy to come by. For clients who live outside that area -- perhaps in more rural, small towns -- she encourages them to make an afternoon of it and travel near her to get a test and dinner. "I always find a way around it, and, at the end of the day, if somebody wants to travel, that's just what they'll have to do," Winkle said.


Bernice Bakley, the owner of Huntley Travel in Huntley, IL., starts the conversation about testing early and ensures clients get appointments on the books a few weeks ahead whenever possible. "It's not something that's an afterthought," she said. In fact, at Huntley Travel, it has become as important a topic as to whether the client has a valid passport that does not expire in the coming months.


Justin Smith, president of the Evolved Traveler in Los Angeles, is advising clients to get a test at the airport before departure. In Smith's experience, it takes from one to five hours, and most airports with international service have testing available.


This is perhaps the most direct solution heard from Kim Gorres, owner of a Travel Leaders Agency in New Richmond, Wis. She does testing in-house. The idea came from a client who did lab work for the judicial system and added COVID-19 testing to the mix. She asked if it was something she could do from her office, and the answer was yes. She received equipment and training for several employees and, in early 2021, opened as a testing center, offering rapid antigen and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) COVID tests and flu/antigen combined tests.


Today, Gorres said, testing is a full-time job for one person at her agency. About 35 tests are conducted each day, which equates to more than $5,000 a week in extra income. Moreover, it has another benefit. "Besides making a bit of money at this, we are also bringing awareness about our agency and have high hopes that we will have new clients because of this awareness and the service they are getting with the testing," said Gorres.

Monday, March 21, 2022

News for Travelers


Photo by Mikita Yo on Unsplash

News from Travel Noire

The Ritz-Carlton On Water: Hotel Launches Caribbean Yacht Experience - Starting in May, Evrima — a yacht experience from The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection — promises to provide guests with a unique Caribbean cruise experience. Learn More→


Southwest Airlines Offers Interest-Free Payment Plans On Flights As Low As $49 - Southwest Airlines has teamed up with Uplift to offer interest-free payment plans on the carrier's flights— including those to Hawaii. Learn More→


Pharrell Williams Is Adding Another Hotel To His Collection With A Luxe Resort In The Bahamas - Pharrell, along with his partner are partnering with Atlantis Paradise to open a new resort in The Bahamas that will be named 'Somewhere Else.' Learn More→


Barack Obama's Former White House Travel Director Is Changing The Face Of Luxury Travel - After serving in the White House as President Barack Obama's White House Travel Director, Ashley Tate-Gilmore and her family-owned business Fortis Global is redefining luxury travel concierge services. Learn More→


The Top Destinations For Medical Tourism, What They're Know For & Cost Of Services - Over the past few years, medical tourism has become a trend that has led millions of people to travel to find affordable medical services. Learn More→


Photo by Tara Urso on  Picnoi

News from Travel Awaits

8 Amazing Private Islands To Escape To In 2022 - Read More

6 Beautiful Lesser-Known Tourist Attractions In Africa - Read More

Monday, March 14, 2022

Virtual Reality Tourism is Now Accessible, Inclusive and Takes the Risk Out of a COVID-disrupted Getaway

As COVID-19 continues to interrupt travel plans in Australia, some of those looking for a risk-free escape are turning to virtual reality tourism.

While it may sound like a downgrade from the real thing, tour guides and designers of these happenings say it is becoming increasingly sophisticated.


Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

However, what is virtual reality tourism? Dr. Ryan Yung, a travel and tourism researcher defines it as the ability to "be physically in one location but your mind is in a different location." It can be accessed by anyone who has a PC, laptop, or mobile phone through YouTube or via virtual tours online. In addition, the experience can be enhanced by using a fold-out Google Cardboard viewer or, for those willing to spend more money, technologically advanced virtual reality headsets.


So is virtual tourism any substitute for the real thing? It is hard to compare the two, but virtual tourism does have some unique benefits, says Dr. Yung. "Some of the more popular attractions in virtual tourism [eventually] will be … places which would be physically impossible to visit," Dr. Yung says.


"If we wanted to visit Rome, for example, in the medieval times, it's possible to do so via virtual tourism."

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Some virtual experiences are also trying to integrate sensory elements, although Dr. Yung says there is still much more work to be done in this area. "With smells, they use pods, which emit synthetic smells ... similar to what you'd find in a shopping mall when you walk past a cookie stand or something with artificial smells." 


"With taste at the moment, there is no real substitute, but I believe some researchers in Singapore have come up with a technology where they can trick your mind through smell. "This is where you're drinking mineral water but, through the trick of color and smell, you can basically fool the mind into thinking [the person is] tasting something."


New Opportunities - Virtual tourism could open up destinations for those who could not access them otherwise. "A lot of the technology that's behind it [came in] years before COVID hit, and it was to overcome a lot of issues with barriers with accessibility and inclusivity," Dr. Yung says. "So people who were not mobile were able to still get some experience of the outside world."


It Offers Other Opportunities Too - For example, for those who are risk-averse, virtual tourism could be a way to take part in extreme sports safely, he says.


"[People] I've spoken to said something like … 'I would love to do something like bungee jumping but my natural fear would never let me do something like that."


"But [with] the comfort of VR, knowing that you physically will not be doing the bungee jump but you're able to experience something like that, that could be a substitute for the real experience.


"I've heard people say they want to see the Great Barrier Reef, but they are so afraid of water … so that could be [an opportunity] in the near term."


Virtual reality can also be used to travel freely without any risk of social or cultural stigmas, he adds. "There are certain behaviors [that] certain cultures expect of us when we travel overseas, or when we're out in public. And when we are hidden deep behind this virtual lens, then [virtual tourists] are able to explore different mannerisms or cultures that you normally wouldn't be able to," he says.


Therefore, for those looking to scratch their travel itch, virtual tourism is opening up the world once again, says Dr. Yung. "This is one small positive that has come up with COVID in alerting research and development [and encouraging the] acceptance of the technology by everyone else."

Monday, March 07, 2022

Little Things That Matter In A Relationship

Best-selling romance Author, Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku, shares her five tips on what matters in a relationship.