Travel Pre And Post Internet

Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been travelling 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 travelled 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 travelling 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 licence 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 travellers 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 travellers 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 traveller. 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. Travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travellers 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 onboard. 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 travelled 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.

Resort in Pench National Park

The Gondwana or the “Land of Gonds” in central India which includes the Pench Tiger reserve, strectches across Madhya Pradesh and Maharatsra. The common languages here is the Gondi, a spoken language. They depend on forest produce for sustenance and livelihood. The history of Pench is rich and enthralling. The history of Pench discloses fascinating and delightful facets of culture and life cycle of the societies of Pench.

The Pench tiger reserve is spread over two states, the Seoni and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh and Nagpur district of Maharashtra. Pench M.P.covers around 757 squares Kms and Maharashtra covering an additional covering 741.22 sq kms has also been declared Pench tiger reserve. Together these two are home to breeding tigress which in turn plays an important role in revitalising the meta-population of tiger reserves.

Interestingly, according to local lore a boy named Mowgli was brought up by a heard of wolves and was found in the Sant Bawadi village. A very famous “The Jungle Book” is based on the Mowgli and its land Pench national Park described by Rudyard Kipling’s. Rudyard Kiplings describes Mowgli and its land “Pench national Park” in his very famous “The Jungle Book” which is a collection of stories by him using animals in a manner to give moral lessons. Also mentioning about the Valley of Ben Ganga River near Kanivadi village where Sher khan of the children’s favourite fanciful tale met his end.

During your visit to Pench and opting for a thrilling Pench jungle safari you will notice the traces of the ancient happenings occurred.

The Living forest: Flaura & Fauna- The remarkable landscape of Pench is the hills, the dense forest and open meadows. Pench forest is largely made up of dry deciduous forest where large tracts of Teak, bamboo, Saaja (crocodile tree), Ghost tree, Mahua, and many more fruit trees. The region has dense red soil rich in lime, magnesia, iron in which dry crops and cotton flourish.

The Iconic the king “Tiger”- The tallest living species in the cat family. The leopard is an intelligent elusive carnivore that manages to sustain itself even in forest dominated by tigers. The other carnivores are dhole (wild dog), jungle cat, small Indian civet, Wolves, Striped hyena, Sloth bear, Jackal, and common palm civet make up the rest of the carnivore fauna of the Pench Tiger Reserve. The pray of these carnivores are Deer, Sambhar, Blue bull, Bison etc are most commonly sighted. Though the flying squirrel, porcupine and Indian pangolin are also resident of the park, spotting any of these is rare.

Bird Watching in Pench: The Pench national park is known as the bird watchers paradise. It has 325 species of birds which includes resident and migratory both. Pench is attaining recognition as one if the India’s premium birding destinations. Bird life is so rich in Pench national park because water birds are attracted to the reservoir situated in the park. Winter migrants includes snipes, sand pipers and wagtails. The cormorants, storks, egrets, fishing eagles and kingfishers have colonised the reserve. The diversity of habitats at Pench is combined with population of predator and prey species make it ideal for vultures. Lots of tourist choose for Pench jungle safaris only to sight vulture which is rare and available in few wild life sanctuaries only.

The Digital Future of the Hotel Industry Starts at Home

During my many years of travel in the service industry and having stayed in hundreds of hotels worldwide, it’s clear that the past five years have brought about enormous change in the hotel industry.

Innovation with architecture, interior design and guest comfort is at an all-time high. Widespread revitalisation has been incredibly successful in meeting guest expectations. Yet, in an increasingly demanding world, there still also remains a huge opportunity to truly create a home from home for the traveler.

Improvement On the Old?… How Much Has Actually Changed in The Hotel Industry?

In so many areas, the revitalisation of hotels continues to occur through the use of innovative products. Yet, if you look closely, you begin to realise that most ideas are limited to enhancing old, existing structures, whilst missing vital customer life cycles.

In a world where customer loyalty is hard-fought and guest expectations are continuing to rise, what’s truly needed is a shift to more dynamic business models: Low risk, digital strategies that are truly in sync with customer’s loves and expectations.

So, What’s Missing from the Guest Experience?

Be it a family, business clients or honeymooning couples, people are now approaching their travel with exceedingly high expectations. In today’s environment, we have access to so much. We have a plethora of choice in our everyday lives and we expect the same standard of availability, ease and access when we enter a hotel.

Modern Expectations

Take my example: At home, my WIFI works seamlessly, without the need for daily passcodes. I can fill my fridge with my favourite food, available for me whenever I want it. I can order it or purchase it on a whim to make my Friday night extra special. I control the temperature of my house, so that when I come home, it’s comfortable. I book massages or entertainment online to consume immediately.

These are all ‘givens’ for me. And I expect them – and more – from my hotel.

I’d love to be able to choose my preferred pillow prior to my arrival. I want to be able to book a reservation at a restaurant or spa with ease and without constant phone calls, or easily choose a city tour without visiting reception. If I have a problem during my stay, I want it fixed fast – not needing to chase a maid or deal with a busy receptionist.

If you, as a hotel, can provide a solution for me to easily manage my needs – through the entire lifecycle of my experience – from booking, staying, right through to months after my stay, then you will earn both my loyalty and my revenue.

Touch and Influence Through Mobile

But how could a hotel achieve this? By adapting pragmatic digital strategies within the guest life cycle. Mobile as our main form of communication and source of information, is one ideal solution.

Located directly on the home screen of the guest’s own device, you have the opportunity to live, literally, in the palm of their hand and be just a touch away from a direct, on- going connection. Your hotel’s physical attributes offer them comfort, whilst your digital presence offers them a 24/7 relationship with you.

A Thriving, Connected Business

The potential for true connection with customers – before, during and after their physical stay – is vast; the opportunities an innovation in this area, endless. Yet, the fact remains that hotels aren’t yet harnessing a personalized digital customer strategy.

Travel to Costa Rica: Hotel Reviews

The Best Western, Costa Rica
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
It was only 15 minutes away from the airport and right in the middle of the city. I felt as though it was a nice transition from being in the U.S. to being in a different country since it is a big, international hotel chain. Everyone we spoke with spoke perfect English but they were also locals so they were open to sharing any advice you might need. The rooms were pretty average and clean with a great view of the courtyard and pool area at the center of the hotel. We swam in the pool during the day (very clean and well kept) and the hot tub was located to the side, a little more private, with an ‘infinity pool’ kind of feel. Overall, it was a simple hotel that offered just enough for us.

Lomas del Volcan, San Carlos
Rating: 4/5 Stars
To this day, it has been one of the most unique and memorable places I have ever stayed. It might seem sketchy when you have to go off the main road and drive up this dirt trail on an incline for a bit, but then you reach a normal road and it takes you right to the main hotel site to check in. The staff was attentive and welcoming. It was a simple dining center, both indoor and outdoor with a terrific buffet. From there, we had to keep going up the incline and walked with our luggage to our own huts. (unfortunate downside: no one carting you around the resort) Towels shaped into flamingos were propped up on each bed accompanied by rose pedals. The bathroom was very large and open which was nice when sharing with others. We had a little front porch and a back porch opening up to all the beautiful surrounding nature. When we would head out in the mornings there would be monkeys swinging around the trees, right outside our hut!! It is also very close to all the near by activities, right off the Arenal Volcano!

Condovac la Costa, Playa Hermosa
Rating: 4/5 Stars
We stayed at this large resort right off the sandy beaches. There is constant uphill and downhill traveling so you’re in for a good work out but luckily there were golf carts roaming around to help guests get around. The welcome desk was very pleasant, with tons of people around to assist you. The rooms were okay, not completely 4 star worthy, but it was everything else that made me give it this rating. They had a tennis court, game room, pool area, karaoke, infinity pool, zumba lessons, salsa lessons, a great restaurant, gift shop and most importantly: their private beach entrance which only lead you to do more! We barely even stayed in the hotel room the amenities kept us so busy. We had no problems with anything here! Highly recommend.