SAVING THE EARTH … ONE DROP AT A TIME

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As I embraced the symbolism of the darkness of Earth Hour on March 24, I considered this simple yet incredibly significant gesture that has resulted in a global movement. This led me to think about the many ways that our planet is being compromised every hour, every day. My thoughts turned to Cape Town, the “Mother City” and one of the world’s leading locations for spectacular holidays. The place where, for me, one can savour some of the world’s finest wines, cherish the good life under the shadows of Table Mountain, with a pink sun set over the city’s golden shoreline. A moment that once you’ve experienced it, you will never forget.

As a global citizen, travel executive and traveller with a conscience, the now well documented travails of Cape Town water shortage can’t help but consume my thoughts. All my life I have taken great pride in being able to call South Africa, and especially now Cape Town, “home”. For the last decade, every year my extended family has gathered from across the globe for our year-end reunion in Cape Town for what is always a precious time and a true pilgrimage. Our last trip, however, brought a heightened sense of awareness of the fragility of the city’s natural beauty. “Day Zero”, the day publicised by authorities as when the taps run dry, had become not just a local, but a global, SOS.

Back in Europe, I have reflected on how some of the communication around this crisis was at times misdirected. It was South Africa’s worst drought in over 80 years. The city of Cape Town and pockets of surrounding areas, including the winelands, suffered rainfall shortfalls enough to have these areas declared a national emergency. A city surrounded by water faces severe damage from drought. Sadly, the warning signs had been there, but were disregarded. Late to the game, government officials and business leaders hurriedly joined forces to try and mobilise secondary water supply sources, with desalination projects and other water resource management infrastructure initiatives being put into priority development. But still, “Day Zero” needed to be addressed. As water restrictions were imposed on residents, new rules were in play on this previously freely-available natural resource: 50 litres per person per day, showers restricted to 90 seconds and grey water being used for everything from gardening to flushing. Not a good situation. Alas, also not a unique issue.

In the midst of Earth Month I look to other destinations and examples around the world and acknowledge the sad realisation that the situation in Cape Town is far from being an isolated case. It’s our new reality. All of this, a direct result of climate change. A stark warning to us all that it’s not just Cape Town, we need to pay urgent attention to what we are doing to our world and what we can do for it. More than 120 cities globally are facing crisis level water challenges. The only positive is that by default, Cape Town has taken a lead position for global learnings in how to recover and reinforce future water preservation.

girlwithtree credit earth day

Picture credit: Earth Day Network www.earthday.org

In the course of my travels I have also seen how California endured a paralysing period of drought between 2012 and 2016, one that cost the state in one year alone over 2% of GDP and 21,000 jobs. But living in it, versus visiting is different. And, as astutely stated by the Californian newspaper, The Mercury News “California’s historic five-year drought is officially over, washed away with the relentlessly drenching rains, floods and snowstorms of this winter. But just as tougher building codes and better emergency planning follow major earthquakes, the brutally dry years from 2012 to 2016 are already leaving a legacy, experts say, changing the way Californians use water for generations to come.”

The lesson for us all – it is our new reality, but we need to take a proactive approach to preserve our planet – as individuals, as members of a community and as business leaders. In considering the rhetorical question, “is water the gold of the 21st century?” There’s no doubt in my mind that the answer is yes. According to the United Nations, the global world population is set to explode from 7 billion today to 10 billion by 2050, climate and weather patterns changing previous natural water patterns and industrial pollution is making water an increasingly scarce commodity. With global changes and human factors altering the course of the earth’s long-term sustainability, it’s imperative that we find ways to counteract these effects. Immediately.

April 2018 Earth Day Network girl with plastic

Picture credit: Earth Day Network www.earthday.org

Through these water crises, Cape Tonians and Californians, have recalculated what they need, not just according to their allocations, but according to their conscience. So many of the water-saving measures imposed during the crisis have, in fact, proven to be simply good life habits. Not just at home, but for wherever and whenever we travel. I’ve instinctively now made changes in how I use water, ever more conscious of this precious resource. My untimed showers a distant memory; water running while I shave or brush my teeth, a relic to the past; filling the kettle beyond the amount I need, long gone. Every time we turn on a tap, we should feel thankful for the freedom of access we have. It is a privilege afforded to many, not all.

At every turn, there is more we can and must do and embracing Earth Hour, Earth Day and Earth Month highlight the depth of despair we are heading to if we don’t take action. From being a high school student who wanted to make a difference, Brad Follett reminds us how his action turned Earth Month into a global movement, almost five decades on. He didn’t need a position of power. He was driven by passion and a proactive desire to make a change. As Earth Day nears, that’s April 22, we see the drive to tackle another critical issue impacting our world, the desperate need to end plastic pollution. As both JoinTrafalgar and TreadRight, we are humbled to work with sustainability ambassador Celine Cousteau, an exceptional individual impassioned to change the world, who has worked endlessly to raise awareness of the damage plastic is causing to our environment, particularly our oceans and the untold harm its causing marine life. We are also proud to be a partner with One Tree Planted, working with them to make it easy for everyone to support reforestation projects around the globe.

I share this with you all as not only a call to action to please be sensitive to the gift of natural resources around us, but also as a reminder of one of the most beautiful human truths and privileges of travel is that it changes us, sometimes openly, sometimes subtly. Who we are, the things we can so often take for granted, come under the spotlight when we travel or even stay home. It is these flickering lights of awareness, personal awareness, that when we take action, make us better people.

I hope for us all to be changed, for the better, in 2018 and beyond. It’s heartening to recognise the momentum of Earth Day is such that it’s believed that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world. We all need to take steps to ensure we are creating actions for the planet’s gain. It takes more than an hour, a day, a month to preserve our precious planet. It takes a lifetime. And it starts right now. With You.

April 2018 Earth Day Network gathering

Picture credit: Earth Day Network www.earthday.org

A SALUTE TO THE LADIES OF THE TRAFALGAR TRIBE

March 8th is a day not only worthy of global attention but also celebration and unification. For over 100 years, our global community has come together to honour women and recognise their multitude achievements with International Women’s Day. And for me, personally, it is a day very close to my heart.

Importantly and uniquely, International Women’s Day is not affiliated with any one group, but rather brings together governments, women’s organisations, corporations, charities and individuals all to reaffirm the original aim of the movement; to achieve full gender equality for women.

This past year has been one that has put an even greater emphasis on the quest for true equality for women. We all know the now numerous reasons why this sentiment has recently and rapidly escalated, and no one can dispute the rightness of the value of woman being unequivocally recognised, respected and protected. Whilst this global truth has not yet been fully realised, this year International Women’s Day highlights more than ever how far we still have to go, must go and will go, especially with an ongoing global reckoning on allegations of sexual misconduct rippling through all industries. The abundant and awful #MeToo accounts continue to be exposed, those guilty now exposed too, with those violated commended for their courage in standing up and helping others to speak up also.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. The website highlights: “We can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever there is a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity, respecting all equally. A call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”.

I am fortunate in that the greatest inspiration in my life was my mother – a single mother who raised four children in South Africa at a time, in the late 1960’s, when being a single, divorced woman was controversial and divisive. First and foremost, she taught me to respect others. She embedded in me the importance of kindness and being responsible for the decisions I would make throughout my life. I grew up with an understanding of what could be called ‘chivalry’. To me such behavior is simply just good manners. Common courtesy and respect for others costs nothing.

Today, I am blessed in that the example of the value of remarkable women is one I experience every single day thanks to my extraordinary wife Toni and her mother, Bea. Through two generations, they both equally define and engender the spirit of female care and compassion, perfectly in harmony with their inner strength, vision and passion that has no barriers.

As the head of Trafalgar, a truly great company comprised of exceptional leaders both female and male, I think it’s vital that we acknowledge that globally, inequality does exist and as leaders, we simply must commit to advancing and empowering women throughout business, knowing how imperative it is that every day, their value is recognised and honoured in precisely the same way as their male counterparts.

I celebrate all the women in my life and all the females in this world. However, as a leader, I take this timely opportunity within to shine the spotlight on the women within Trafalgar, who have proven themselves to be an imperative ingredient when defining our culture, our vision and our success. As a company, we have always been and always will be firmly committed to female empowerment and advancement. Equality is an action we all live by within our tribe. Regardless of our own gender, every single one of us within Trafalgar are each champions for changing our world for the better, particularly ensuring that we actively identify and develop the true potential of our female colleagues. I feel strongly that I and my entire team are aligned and devoted to this line of thinking.

Regular evaluation and progress check-ins are, of course, a requisite when making such commitments for support. I have never been and will never be one to pay lip service. With International Women’s Day upon us, it felt even more appropriate to evaluate how we are doing and to highlight some of the female forces that are weaving a wonderful legacy for future talent, of both sexes, within our tribe.

It is clear to me that through words that have firmly translated into actions over the years, Trafalgar has and continues to facilitate an environment of nurturing female talent and fostering a culture of empowerment and entrepreneurialism throughout the brand – this spans our internal Tribe as well as our extended Tribe i.e. those inspirational colleagues we work with on the ground – our suppliers. It fills me with immense pride to see how strongly we are enabling connectivity and community amongst women both internally and externally. We mentor and coach women. We build strong and impactful teams of women who support one another and build each other up. It’s so powerful and uplifting to also see the embodiment of a culture of “community not competition”, which shines from all angles.

As I personally look at female forces working directly within the brand, it is impossible not to think of, and immediately salute, Theresa. She is a true example of all that is to be recognised and celebrated in female leadership. Starting as a sales manager more years ago than I’d put in writing, today she runs our entire South African business. I enjoyed recently receiving a copy of a 1990’s group contract from a multi-repeat guest who had worked with Theresa some years ago and today considers her a friend. Theresa is an enduring, shining example of grace, greatness and true tenacity.

In the USA, one of my trusted, go-to people is Monica, who today directs our award-winning Call Centre. Joining the business over 26 years ago, Monica’s story always brings a broad smile as it reflects her character perfectly. As she says;

“I started with Contiki as a reservations agent in 1998 as a seasonal temp.  I remember looking my Manager in the eye and telling her I’d accept a seasonal job but I wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. “

Following a series of positions and promotions, Monica joined us in Trafalgar in 2005 and, as she says, “the rest is history”.  A single mother, she has also been a real champion in making her family part of our greater TTC Family, referring her sister as well as daughters to become part of TTC. We are truly one family.

Closer to home for me, my executive team is made up of numerous remarkable ladies including our CMO Dee, Head of yield management, Nawal, Head of European Product, Liesa (although after eight years has decided to return to being a bohemian traveller), Joy who leads our European Operations, Janice who directs all Asia product and Karen who is vital to everything brochures. I then look to our selling offices, where three of our seven selling offices are run by Melissa, Ruth and Theresa and shortly it will be four of seven…

I can proudly share with you that, looking across Team Trafalgar, I see that the majority of our leadership teams are female: 100% in South Africa, 78.5% in the USA, 66% Canada and 65% in Australia. In Marketing our teams are 100% female in USA, Singapore, Australia, Canada & South Africa.

As we look to our female forces working in the field, delivering exceptional experiences to our guests, I am delighted to confirm that within our exclusive ‘Be My Guest’ experiences, 48% of these in Europe and Britain are hosted by women. As I look around the world, we are privileged to work with a selected network of inspirational and truly individual women, each with their own tale to tell, such as:

  • Marta Cucchia in Perugia – with a true talent for the generations-old skill of jacquard weaving, she is the only person in the world still doing using such methods to create Umbrian, Medieval and Renaissance designs, every day making a difference with her passion to preserve this tradition. Marta is only one example of us working to further empower these successful women to form deeper connections locally, regionally and globally and allowing them to show case their artisanal creations and opening up broader networks for them to share their talents and tips with counterparts across the globe. And she is now mentoring her niece to ensure this gift is sustained.
  • The 60-strong selfless Sisters of the Precious Blood in southern Austria, leading a self-sustained lifestyle and focused on helping those in need from their Monastery in Kloster Wernberg.
  • Diana Lenzi – a trained chef who relocated from Rome to run an estate in Tuscany that’s been in her family since the 19th Century, following in the footsteps of her mother’s philosophy of “learn as you go”. From sourcing local produce to hand harvesting the organic wine and olives to cooking for guests to daily estate maintenance are just a snapshot of a day’s work for Diana.
  • The female-dominated community in the village of Demircidere in Turkey. Undeterred by the devastation of the decimation of their crops by a beetle, these determined women captured our attention and for chose to work with them to support their entrepreneurial spirit and create a Be My Guest to host Trafalgar guests, where they also teach us how to bake traditional bread and taste their home-made wine. Behind Kiranli, Demircidere village has the highest rate of women working in Turkey and is testament to a great example of women working as a community and not competition. We are proud to support their endeavours and also open up the eyes of our guests to such a culture (in all senses).
  • Doyenne of French fragrances, Agnes Costa of Fragonard is fourth generation family of perfumers, taking the mantle from her father and maintaining tradition with help of her sister, Francoise and sharing insights into this wonderful world with our guests with palpable passion and pride.

All these women are taking the lead, aspiring to be greater, determined to deliver nothing but the best, often putting others before themselves and striving to share their passion and spread their infectious determination with anyone they encounter.

When I consider what it is that directly fuels our success at being the best, there is clear evidence that our innovation and success is dominated by female leadership. The women in Tribe Trafalgar are both the roots and wings, providing our brand with a diversity of perspectives, of innovative concepts, unique insights and impactful experiences.

I am honored to live with and work with such an extraordinary group of women. And men. I know that every single aspect of Trafalgar’s envied industry leadership position is possible thanks to the collaboration of our wonderfully eclectic team.

And so, not just on this International Women’s Day, but every single day, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all women I know and their relentless displays of strength and character. It is thanks to their commitment, courage, character and class that we can be confident that Trafalgar will continue on its journey of creating an inclusive and diverse culture for the benefit of all – Tribe Trafalgar: our guests, our partners and our team.

It is my commitment always, that the door is wide open at Trafalgar and for women, the ceiling is limitless.

Ladies, I salute you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LET YOUR SPIRIT OF TRAVEL SOAR IN 2018

Man stands in the light of opening

It seems such a short time since 2018 began and yet here we are now already in February, the December holiday season a distant memory and another new beginning rapidly approaching, with the Lunar New Year upon us. Increasingly I hear, at an accelerating pace, “how time flies”, though the old adage of that being so, “only when you’re having fun”, seems not to always ring so true as I believe it should.

As 2018 picks up pace, it’s good to take a step back and remember that we are the pilots, we can control the path we are on and there is no doubt that an essential ingredient to getting the most out of life and ensuring that time really does fly, is to travel.

At this point in the year, it’s always important for me to stop, re-centre my thoughts and my heart, and decide, where to next. How about you? Before you reply, I’d like you to think about the following; what if, today, with immediate effect, you were asked to surrender your passport for a year. Worse, that you could not even venture further afield than the city or town in which you live for an entire 12-month period. Many of us are extremely privileged to have the opportunity for freedom of passage, but do we fully appreciate that? Would it take the threat of that light going off temporarily to re-energise some of us and embrace the brightness of the possibilities that travel affords us? Not just for the bragging factor, more importantly for the richness of experience and opening of our minds. And hearts.

This emotion is one we must never forget. It is the spirit of travel that I hope we will all work to replenish in 2018. Especially as we move further and further away from the year that was in 2017.

As we contemplate travel plans for this year, we will recall that sadly last year didn’t move us forward in any way towards being a unified and inclusive world. For the first time in our generation, a number of leaders have defined their visions for their nations to be about keeping people out, not welcoming them in. Global connectivity and compassion seems to have reached a new low. Efforts to lock the front doors of destinations through the likes of travel bans, for instance, were deplorable. It’s a sad day when cultural diversity and difference are positioned as a risk to national security. Ignorance insisted that isolation was safer than inclusivity. And yet from my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is through our travel ventures that we are able to understand differences, appreciate and embrace diversity and seek to bridge the unnecessary divide. It is this action that creates reassurance. We are stronger together than we are divided by the sum or our parts, which is why, I fundamentally believe that we need to travel to keep our hearts and minds open and preserve society.

And so, as the year of the dog and the rest of your 2018 unfolds, I simply ask you to seize the moment, don’t let time pass by and be sure to play your part to actively keep the spirit of travel alive.

Travel More. Discover More. Embrace everything and everyone. Break Barriers. Learn and Discover from others. And most importantly, cherish each moment. I refer to the great Mark Twain, as I have done on occasion before, but never have such words rung true:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

 

 

 

 

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR TRAVEL GIFT TIPS

The end of 2017 is already upon us, and how this year has flown by. I believe in using this time to put a pause on daily busyness and focus on the important business of taking extra care of those we love. For me, one of the absolute pleasures that is almost equalled with frustrations is the gift selecting that comes with the festive season.

I fly often. A lot, in fact. And I truly enjoy sharing and exchanging travel tips. But in recognising the time of year, rather than travel tips, I wanted to give some more thought to my sharing and as it’s the season of goodwill and giving. I immediately thought about the questions I am frequently asked about when it comes to travel accessories and what great gift ideas I might have. So here are some of my personal favourite gifted tips plus gifts you may like to seek out, road tested, across many miles and continents, that have certainly smoothed the way on my myriad travels. I hope that these may make your holiday season shopping easier and your intrepid traveller’s journeys more enjoyable.

First, and foremost, the most essential of them all, suitcases. My belief is simple, invest in the best from those who know travel not fashion. The pieces of luggage we buy become the peace of mind we travel with. One should never have to worry about luggage letting you down. Cutting corners and cutting costs cuts directly into your ease of mobility. All it takes is one broken handle, or one loose wheel, and your ability to easily and effortlessly go from A to B falls apart (and your travel tolerance levels may also do so!)

Speaking of wheels, they are critical. However, as wonderfully functional as they are, it intrigues me that no one ever thought of putting brakes on four-wheeled suitcases. I therefore only use two wheelers. Neither you, nor your lawyers, want your baggage to show they have a mind of their own and become a giant bowling ball. And in case you are wondering, my most trusted brand: Tumi.

Tip number two: Life on the road of with a plethora of planes and time zones, when it comes to being healthy while travelling, the struggle is real. When travelling for work or pleasure it is imperative to hydrate (see tip on this below) and ensure you exercise.  There are very some simple, yet effective, strategies that will help you continue to remain healthy while travelling in order to maintain balance and reduce stress. My two invaluable and compact travel companions are my Manduka light travel yoga mat and my TRX, an over the door, very transportable, bodyweight training apparatus. Both do an exceptional job when you have limited time to train before one of “those” early morning departures.

It is always tough to begin one’s journey trying to recover from another flight, hence grabbing sleep on a ‘plane is always a good idea. Eyeshades are another essential you need to own in life – from sleep-inducer to do not disturb, they are a great anti-invasive investment. This is one where comfort outweighs cost for me and texture is all-important to rest: cashmere with silk lining is hard to beat.

All airplanes are loud. A pair of comfortable noise cancelling headphones will make every flight shorter as they reduce ambient noise significantly; making every voyage more peaceful. A few years ago, I moved from over to in ear headphones (size) and Bose are without question the best in class in this regard. The sound experience is truly transporting, in any mode of transport.

Airplane attire never ceases to amaze me. I am always surprised by those flying in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. I always travel with a zip-up wool sweater and without fail, a large scarf. A recent new addition to my in-flight attire was introduced to me by Scott, who runs our New Zealand office, when he gave me my first pair of Allbirds, the most comfortable merino wool sneakers known to man. Not only do they keep your feet warm, but now that evening trip mid-flight to the bathroom seems less concerning.  At this point, it’s worth highlighting that some people advocate sitting by the window is better for sleep, I personally always find it colder than the aisle.

The next gift tip is more about conservation and consciousness than comfort: a personal hot/cold water bottle (and hydration too). We all know that plastic bottles are becoming an increasingly present peril for our environment, especially our oceans and you cannot get them through security. I therefore like knowing I am playing my part by carrying my Swiss made Sigg bottle with me when I travel. After all, every little bit helps.

When on the road, one of the biggest pleasures comes from not only having the time to read, but also considering what we might read, whether books, magazines or newspapers. Thanks to the remarkable iPad or a Kindle, they have officially ended that need for extra kilos in the tightly-packed travel bags. Unless you are my   wife – who still delights in lugging multiple books around.

The newest addition to my travel accessories is my first Apple Watch, the 3. I have eagerly awaited this and the opportunity to be Maxwell Smart; communicating telephonically via my watch. But come on Apple, surely you should have thought about the time zone automatically updating (it requires is both iPhone and iWatch restarting, not just from flight mode).

We all know that travel can change us and how the smallest of effort can make the biggest difference at times. Don’t dispose of all your local currency before leaving a country, don’t force yourself to have that last cup of coffee or buy that non-essential useless gift. Save your change to help make a change. Almost every airport in the world and many airlines now collect currencies that are used for a diversity of worthwhile causes. It’s a timely reminder during the season of goodwill. And it’s a small gesture that can have a big impact if we all do our bit.

Lastly, my final tip, is one very close to my heart, that I feel every traveller should have a personal totem. What do I mean by this? Something small, of personal value and/or significance, that you can always carry with you and that keeps your spirit connected to you. I have carried the same Tibetan sandalwood prayer beads with me for years. I can only imagine how many air miles they have travelled. Every time I hold and quietly play with them wherever I may be, I can feel myself centering. This ability to pull out, hold, touch and absorb something highly personal is essential to carrying that precious piece of home with you wherever you are in the world. Its value is never quantitative. It is always about the emotional connection, irrespective of what it may be.

With that, I wish you and yours all the very, very best for a happy, healthy holiday time. May the gifts of the season leave you feeling prosperous with health and love and ready to travel. And, as 2018 awaits, I wish you all that you wish for in the year ahead.

FORECAST FOR 2018 – THE SEVEN TO ANTICIPATE

The countdown is on. Ready or not, we are into the final 50 days of the year. It is remarkable that we are already so close to the end of 2017. In the same way that one naturally pauses to reflect on events of the past year, it is also that time of year when debate turns to expected trends for the next year.

Being ahead of the curve is something I love to challenge myself and my team on, hence we also take pride in it being synonymous with the Trafalgar brand. So ahead of the Christmas countdown, here are my seven trends for 2018.

Why seven? Simple: it is the world’s favourite number. There are seven days of the week, seven colours of the rainbow, seven seas and seven continents. And, there is no value in increasing the number purely for numbers’ sake.

Let’s take-off…

  1. Off-Season Travel

Travel has become a way of life. Exploring, adventuring, relaxing, escaping, reconnecting – all of these have become a part of what we do, and shape who we are. The numbers of travellers are growing annually, dramatically. Clearly, however, in key cities, the industry can’t build accommodation fast enough to accommodate high season peaks, and travelling on your own can result in long queues that simply exhaust the desire to fulfil a travel dream.

Re-adjusting our mind-sets to embrace year-round travel as a genuine prospect allows travellers to fully enjoy every moment and not have that sinking feeling of worrying about battling crowds at each turn. Lack of crowds means lack of frustration of time and space lost as you embark on the same “bright idea” to travel to the same place at the same time as everyone else. The following three variables are being increasingly considered and I believe we will see more travellers shifting to embrace year-round travel:

If you’ve ever been to the same destination during the typical peak season and the off-season, you could relate to me instantly. The way locals treat visitors when there aren’t many of them is also worth noticing. Welcomes are warmer and more sincere – you will feel more like a traveller than a tourist.

You will also see more. Without traffic and queues one acquires more time and the opportunity to discover a whole new range of activities to enjoy and take part in during the less-traditional “peak’ periods.

Finally, there are the prices. From air to activities to transport, depending on time of year and season, rates can vary significantly. Discounts are for times of low demand. The plus points make it all a rather obvious alternative.

  1. True Sustainability Will Become A Requisite, Not A Nice To Have

“Over-tourism” is a growing concern. During the peak European summer travel months, destinations such as Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik find themselves simply overwhelmed, local residents growingly angered by the takeover of tourists. The insurgence of what I have termed the “ice cream tourist’. We have all just read about the changes coming for cruises in Venice, which will serve only to increase the concerns.

For travel to remain true to people and place, we must ensure that we work to grow tourism in a sustainable manner – assisting local communities to celebrate who they are, respecting their uniqueness, as a prelude to building their economy and protecting their environment. Through JoinTrafalgar, as well as our TTC-aligned Treadright Foundation, we must all play our part in ensuring that tourism remains a force for good. The term “sustainable” has been increasingly paired up with “travel” and “tourism” to denote a desired way of operating. We are hearing more and more from our travellers that they are becoming increasingly engaged with spending their money on “sustainable” ventures. It is not about being eco-friendly, it is about being environmentally-conscious – being part of the bigger picture, preserving something for the long-term.

But how do we really give meaning to the term “sustainability”? These are my three criteria for sustainable travel in 2018 and beyond:

  1. Economic – how, the business model that supports an enduring tourism economy
  2. Cultural – being sensitive to the history, traditions, identity and ideologies of a people and place
  3. Environmental – preserving, protecting and promoting the gifts of natural environment all around us

TreadRight Heritage supporting Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Perugia, Italy

As previously referenced, differentiated seasonality will diminish – no more FOMO for those that don’t travel in summer in Europe, for example. We will see people travelling at traditional “off peak” or shoulder periods as is, not only to avoid excessive crowds but also to avoid compromising some of those destinations that cannot cope with the burgeoning influx. It will help pace the tourism intake and also sustain businesses that might otherwise be stretched with having the highest percentage of their business boom during the key summer months (more longevity and sustains business and tourism).

 

 

  1. Technology, Enriching The Travel Experience

From AR and VR and IoT (internet of Things) they are all becoming integrated into  daily life. In 2018, I envision them further assimilating into the traveller experience, making them an integral part of the journey to the ultimate destination. It shouldn’t be surprising that holidaymakers in 2018 will want to ensure that technology works for them to leverage their travels – before they go, whilst travelling, and after, especially when sharing reviews. As an industry, we need to ensure we are tapping into this trend, embracing technology that genuinely enriches our experiences.

There is no doubt that the written form is quickly evaporating and today consumers are ever increasingly looking at video for inspiration; and particularly short form video, (from 5 – 30 seconds). I know that when a video starts, I look at the time bar and if its long, I click off.  In 2018 we will see short form video help drive original content as well as engage and inspire travellers.

Finally, if I recall correctly, last year, we reached the tipping point when we viewed more websites on our smartphones and tablets than our desktops. This milestone highlights how our interaction with technology is rapidly shifting. With this distinct trend and seeing how our guests use technology whilst travelling with us. In 2018 Trafalgar will be introducing an innovative new way for our guests to get information via mobile pre, during and post their travels, as well as enabling them to engage with fellow travellers and share their experiences across their social channels.

  1. It’s All About Personalisation.

Lest we never forget: when travelling, personalisation is no longer a pleasant surprise for customers, it is an absolute expectation. There is no reason at all why the power of touching one should be lost to the masses. Today’s connectivity means that consumers are rightfully expecting, and demanding, more. From our perspective, for every single one of our Trafalgar guests around the world, no one matters more than each of them. Their needs, their expectations, are simple: recognise, understand and respect me for the individual that I am.

Why? Because consumers want to feel like their interests and preferences are not only taken seriously but also applied. They want their holiday to be as individual as they are. And rightly so. And because they, our valued customers, have invested time to research and finally choose their holiday with us over others, it is expected that we reciprocate by honouring not just their choice, but honouring them. Their happiness is our unequivocal goal.

Food Foraging in Lahinch, Ireland

  1. HDD – Holiday Deficit Disorder

An expression given to me by wife. It wasn’t that long ago that taking all of one’s holiday time was almost frowned upon. Today the importance of unplugging is greatly understood. Never before has there been such awareness of the strong relationship between wellness and taking time off.

Today, “Holiday Shaming” is rapidly becoming an ideal of the past. Encouraging personal time out is the evolved way of looking at employee wellbeing, on and off the job. At the same time, travellers recognise that regularly recharging, refreshing and rejuvenating is part of a healthy work-life balance. What better way than to travel to new places, get away from the day to day and completely escape. The need to learn more to increase one’s productivity, creativity, sense of purpose and sense of participation is not only acquired in the workplace. There is no better school for personal growth and decompression than the travel world that surrounds us all.

In the back yard of our Stay with Stories, Las Sasas de la Juderia, in Seville

  1. Off the beaten track destinations

Discovering the mysterious and the new remains vital to travellers. I continue to see more and more people visiting cities that were, until recently, overlooked, unheard of or inaccessible. There is no doubt that the proliferation of low-cost airlines is having a profound, positive impact on these lesser known places. Regional low-cost carriers continue to proliferate globally, making discovery of somewhat unexplored destinations a delightful reality. In so doing, these new air routes unlock previously unseen economic, social and cultural uplift. Over the past decade, airlines have added over 10,000 new routes — serving more than 37,000 city pairs. There are now 1,280 international airports serving 48,977 routes worldwide. What does this mean for travellers in 2018? More choices, more exploration, more learning, more opportunity to create more in life for the people accessing these remarkable new jewels of travel.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

  1. Bragging Rights

If there is one thing that is going to distinctly differentiate this travel generation compared to those of years, and generations, past, it is the articulation of feedback – posting, rating, bragging. Today’s travellers are more ambitious and adventurous, both in their travelling, and in their travel-sharing. It’s no longer about checking boxes. Travellers want adventurous, participatory experiences. Sight-seeing is important but not enough.

Sight-doing is the way to touch their travel souls and make memories to last a lifetime. The quest for realness – living local – has put heightened pressure on the most over used word in travel, ‘authentic’. What must never be forgotten is what travellers are ultimately looking for: getting below the surface of destinations, understanding their uniqueness and very essence. In 2018, I think there will be an increased swathe of people fully engaged in the sharing economy, communicating to the world the wonderfully enriching experiences that they have discovered but that their friends haven’t. Yet.

So, these are my Top Seven Travel Insights for 2018 – my truths for the year ahead. May they serve you and your aspirations well, as the new year unfolds.

MY EIGHT WONDERS OF THE WORLD

The days are distinctively shorter, the evenings tinged with a chill, and the trees are shedding shades of brown: for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is certainly here. I love this time of year, as during a period of three months, I will visit five continents, supporting our remarkable Trafalgar Tribe with the launch of our 2018 Europe and Britain offering. Part-way through the big trips, there is already a child-like feeling that during my sleepless, jet-lagged nights, my mind and heart race as I reflect on the places I’m fortunate to have been to and those places where I want to go.

For those of us born into travel, it is our business to know the next hotspots – what’s trending – for who and why, where the ‘in crowd’ go and where the who’s who is doing you know what.  In fact, it I am frequently asked by friends, family, colleagues and curious media alike, “what are your favourite places?”

We know that travel and what drives us to certain places is innately personal. The spectrum of choices for travellers literally stretches across a world of experiences, emotions, end-goals. And with the expansion of the travel industry’s reach through technology, ever-expanding airports and airline routes to places we never knew we needed to go to, today there is just about nowhere out of reach.

Clearly subjective choices, my motivation for considering these eight wonders of my world varies considerably, though the immense opportunity for discovery is the common connection. The voyage of doing, seeing, living and breathing places for the first time are some of the abundant reasons I adore travelling.  My passion for travel extends so greatly that I don’t subscribe to never visiting the same place twice (or more) – I firmly believe there are many places worth revisiting over and over again. As I set out my intention for 2017 to embrace meaningful travel experiences, I’ve also embraced the privilege I have of being able to go where Trafalgar, or I, personally, can make a difference.

Without further ado, from 30,000 plus feet, here are my current sleep-deprived eight wonders:

Number 1: Paris FRANCE

I have been countless times, but the city of light never fails to set me aglow. I am forever in awe of its ability to make me fall in love with it… again and again… and again. A stroll along the Seine or indeed anywhere in Paris enlivens and seduces every sense. Every parting is a sweet sorrow…. until I return once more. What more can I say? Paris is always a good idea (an Audrey Hepburn quote).

Number 2: EGYPT

It’s time to return. I emphatically believe this. As a traveler with an inherent love for ancient history, Egypt never fails to deliver. A country over 5000 years old, it forever remains a place that made, and continues to make, profound history. In 2018, the incredible Grand Egyptian Museum will open, showcasing the Ancient World’s riches right on the edge of the Great Pyramids. Perspective is critical in Egypt. To see the treasures from land is breathtaking. To see them again from the vantage point of the River Nile is even more captivating. Literally standing in the shadows of a mind-blowing rich cultural heritage – the seat of one of the longest histories of any modern country.

Number 3: The Red Centre, AUSTRALIA

The spiritual heart of Australia, this central region of this vast continent is one of the most culturally-rich places on the planet. Home to so many of Aboriginal Australia’s sacred sites, the soul-stirring moments are palpable from the second you arrive. From the captivating stories of the Anangu and the changing colours of Uluru at sunrise and sunset, to the awe-inspiring landscapes and exhilarating beauty of Kings Canyon and Alice Springs, to the mysterious and intriguing series of 36 ancient red rock formations that are Kata Tjuta. It would not do justice to the 50,000+ years of the Dreamtime to try to describe the significance of this area: it has to be seen and more importantly, felt in person, to truly even be able to begin to appreciate how precious and spiritual these places are. And I, for one, cannot wait to feel that energy in person.

Australia outback landscape ( North Territory)

NUMBER 4: India

So many places in the world have an adjective associated with them, but none are more befitting than when we describe India as “incredible”. In every sense of the word, this country is full of the most exceptional experiences and a true treat for all of the human senses. Whilst known for its opulence when it comes to delivering some of the best hospitality on the planet, there is, of course, another side to this diverse land. Both personally and professionally, I feel very strongly about ensuring we give back to those places that we visit. As such, I’m thrilled that we are now able to offer Trafalgar guests the opportunity to work with the inspirational organization ME to WE by participating in a sustainable development project in Rajasthan. Close to the Aravalli Range, the oldest plateau mountains in India, this project has been created in conjunction with TreadRight and JoinTrafalgar. I’m looking forward to experiencing it in 2018 and making a difference.

ME to WE

NUMBER 5: Copenhagen, Denmark

For me, the true foodie capital of the world and of course now widely-recognised as the edible jewel in Scandinavia’s crown. We all know about Noma but the impact has been considerable: the 2017 Michelin Guide of Nordic Cities awarded 16 Copenhagen restaurants a total of 20 stars. Travel here today with a large appetite – for both food and beauty, of which this city has an abundance of.

NUMBER 6:  Hvar, Croatia

Having celebrated 25 years of independence in 2016, Croatia is seeing a major uptick in tourism (thanks, in part, to Game of Thrones and me convincing I think nearly every member of the Trafalgar Tribe Buzz Ambassadors to visit there this summer), ask Dee, Lauren, Rae and Claire if they too now see why Hvar and Dubrovnik must be on the top of everyone’s need to visit list.  Croatia undoubtedly is one of those hidden treasures – somewhere everyone is now going and asking themselves “why have

Hvar, Croatia

I never been here before?”. With the influx of tourism almost overwhelming for some of the places, my advice is to book early or go out with the traditional peak season. The “shoulder” seasons still offer great weather and the spectacular landscapes, food and hospitable people don’t change year-round. For obvious reasons, Dubrovnik is the jewel in Croatia’s crown, but I urge everyone to visit Hvar for the real thing when it comes to a slice of the good Croatian country life. 

 

NUMBER 7, Cuba

And with a new USA travel advisory, my desire to visit will need to be delayed. But, my curiosity with Cuba has been long-standing and now the whole world is joining me in thinking now is the time to go and uncover this most fascinating slice of Latino life. Sadly my travel plans didn’t work out this year, given the recent devastation in this small island nation. It’s sometimes a delicate discussion around visiting a place after a natural disaster or tragedy. For me it’s a no-brainer. It makes me want to go to Cuba even more. I’m proud to be part of a community that sees the value in tourism for good. After tumultuous times in this country, it’s more important than ever that we support them in the best way we can…by going and seeing and exploring and helping sustain those communities who desperately need our holiday dollars more than they ever have before. Our thoughts are with the people of Cuba, and I hope that you, like me, will all be inclined to help them get back on their feet, sooner than later.

MY UNEXPECTED WONDER: Austin Texas

In March this year I revisited Austin after around 20 years. Upon arrival, it looks and feels like the usual homogenised high-rise city. But, it most definitely isn’t: it transcends being the live music capital of the world. In two simple words, Austin is cool and its fun. What I discovered this time around was a city obsessed with the latest artful food, exceptional BBQ options, interesting young and unexpected fashions abound. And when my BA flight was ubiquitously delayed, I didn’t mind one bit, as I sat savouring great BBQ flavours from a food truck, listening to a live outstanding blues band, air side. Only in Austin…

So these are the eight places where I am planning to go to in the near future, Why eight, I have no idea. These all spontaneously came to mind hence I called them my eight wonders of the world. As I re-read this list, I note the vast difference in their locations and lifestyles, but know they will all fuel my sense of adventure and feed my soul. Some will be firsts and others a reintroduction, but the certainty of all is a new voyage of discovery.

I’d like to make one small request – please stop, contemplate and make your travel list. Then spread your wings and go. Most importantly, in this sentence is a singular word, wherever you choose to visit, don’t just make bucket lists, don’t dream about “one day”. Go. This is about you and your wellbeing, Enjoy and wishing you safe and truly enriching travels, wherever you choose to go. Bon voyage!

WE ARE FAMILY

2017 has certainly been a whirlwind, filled with a number of unexpected twist and turns for many of us. However, as all of us at Trafalgar ready ourselves for 2018, I am again reminded of the importance of travel and why it has become such an essential part of our lives. The wisdom of St. Augustine exemplifies it so well: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

I was born into a family of passionate travellers, and remain willingly entwined in our journey. Across three generations, our shared life’s work is dedicated to this remarkable industry – an industry that builds understanding, respect, and unbreakable bonds across borders, cultures and ideologies. More and more, as our world faces forces that try to keep people apart because of their religion, their culture or simply their differences, it is travel that brings people together.

The old adage to “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” could not ring truer than it does for me. As a family, we spend the year travelling the world – predominantly for ‘work’, though it’s always a pleasure. The demands of running a global business dictate the need to be everywhere, at some point in time. I always feel that the perpetual motion and ability to travel is a privilege. However, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit life on the road can also occasionally cause me to crave the chance to be still in one place for a short period of time. Until the next day…

I was recently with the Trafalgar Tribe in London, and whilst I was there purely for business, I realised how especially energised I was. Standing in Trafalgar Square, where our brand’s story began, I felt my adrenalin rushing at full pace. The not so secret ingredient? Family. This was a time and place, a moment in history for us all to celebrate our family’s greatest travel legacy so far, Trafalgar’s 70th anniversary.

Life is busy – we are all time poor, we know that.  But unless we break the cycle of being ‘busy’, we never make time for anything truly valuable and worthwhile in our lives and those important moments with family will rapidly diminish. There is nothing more valuable than the gift of time, and one of the most rewarding ways we can spend this precious commodity is with family.

Whilst in London, the impact of this powerful sentiment was reaffirmed to me by three fellow TTC executives, all of whom had recently taken their families on a Trafalgar Family Experience. I was filled with immense pride as I heard from them independently (John, Melissa and Annaliesa, thank you to you and your families, for your passion and sharing your photos with us) how there is nothing in the world that can exceed the value of time shared exploring and creating memories with family, particularly for those with young children.

Gladiator school, Rome

Annaliesa’s son at Gladiator school in Rome

From my own experiences, I know that planning for the ultimate holiday has become a great way for families to remain connected. Irrespective of age, we know travel to be such an incredibly powerful educator. But for younger children it has a far more profound effect in shaping their perceptions of the world about them, by enabling them to understand and appreciate different places, people, cultures and viewpoints. It teaches them about their own ability to find a place of security and identity within themselves. Travel is the truest mirror of how we see the world, and how we see ourselves in it.

I have seen it in myself, I have seen it in my children; to give a child a sense of curiosity about the world, a non-judgmental interest in exploring, learning, discovering, and appreciating more, is one of the most fulfilling things both a parent and child can experience.

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John Veitch and his family enjoying the mountains

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Melissa DaSilva in the US with her girls

Sadly however, time marches on and there comes a time when Mom and Dad are just not cool anymore, and are out of touch with what’s ‘in’. Interests change and the prospect of travelling with parents is far from appealing. So, don’t delay (Dan, Matt, Rachael and Marin) and anyone else, just thinking about ‘it’, make your plans today. For even if your children no longer share the same interests, in travel, there will always be something that creates excitement across the generations. It might be through direct experience of an activity or attraction, or it might in fact be sharing an unforgettable moment – the pinch me moments we all dream of. Whatever the case may be, the world in which we live offers boundless opportunities for families to stay connected, through travel.

For me, it is through a love of travel, sharing those memories together, that we remain connected to both our immediate family and our global extended one.

 

 

KEEPING TRAVEL DOORS, MINDS AND HEARTS OPEN

I love travel. For me the ability to freely discover new places and people is a fundamental part of the fabric of who I am. It is what turns my profession into my vocation.

I have never given much thought to the possibility of this right coming under threat. That is, not until recently, when I, or rather we all, noticed that matters started to go very wrong. My view of the world has always been that of a global community, and yet today our world appears to be facing unprecedented challenges not just to our unity, but also to our humanity. Basic privileges are disappearing. Boundaries are being created. Such measures, unless stopped, will not only make travel inaccessible, but also increase the inhumanity amongst us.

I am quite certain that none of us will ever forget the alarming sight of a traveler – a doctor no less – with a paid seat, being forcibly removed from a plane. Why? Because the airline crew needed to fly. Policy or not, the actions of the Chicago police, requested by the airline personnel, were inexcusable and unforgivable. Finally, after much backlash, the airline CEO even admitted so. Humanity came second to policy.

It’s easy to draw parallels to another unacceptable situation ongoing in the same part of the world: an American President attempting to place ‘un-American’ travel bans, of what appears to be outright discrimination and violation of not just democracy, but human decency.

My confusion around where our supposedly ‘civilized’ world is heading is multi-faceted. I was born into the hospitality and travel industry. My grandfather, at the tender age of 14, left Russia, alone, hidden under potato sacks with just 12 gold sovereigns sewed into the lining of his jacket. By 1920 he had established a new life for himself in South Africa, laying the foundations for future generations, where he purchased a small hotel in a remote fishing village. His vision of caring, inclusive, exceptional service, has been a guiding light for our family for over three generations. I must add that I grew up in Apartheid South Africa, where our hotels refused segregation laws, opening our doors to all, at the explicit risk of a harshly negative response. Despite the risks, my family was, and remains, steadfast in the commitment to ensure that all guests feel both honoured and respected.

I myself, admittedly in very different circumstances, have been fortunate to run a global travel business. However; I am also an immigrant, three times over in fact, having moved from South Africa to the United Kingdom, United States and now Switzerland. Every time I moved forward, I was discovering the individuality of each culture, running a business firmly rooted in a belief of individuality and respect, always putting the guest is at the forefront of all that we do.

What we are seeing today is beyond comprehension. Despite the importance of travel to economies and business that should put people and service first and foremost, sadly we find ourselves in an environment led by narrow minded political rhetoric, and poor business practices. Humanity is being pushed aside, hostility (in the name of security) is being given priority. In truth, these political and corporate policies appear to want to keep people out.

I firmly believe that travel is, and must remain, our world’s great educator and unifier – the unquestionable basis for greater understanding, respect and peace. It is the quintessential bridge that connects us all. We need to be building bridges in humanity, not walls. This truism is known by all of us in the travel industry.

Mark Twain captured this wholeheartedly: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

As an industry, and as consumers, we need to ensure that whilst fresh in all of our minds, we speak our minds. Regardless of our standing from CEO, or leaders of the free world, we must not allow this spirit of poor service, this overt segregation, to spread. There is no policy that can make the sentiment of ‘stay away’ acceptable. Never has it been more important to venture outside of our familiar surrounds, to go and discover the culturally rich and diverse wonders of the world we live in. And the people with whom we share it.

I have lived and loved the United States for many decades. Actions being taken, be they Executive Orders or inexplicable removal of airline passengers, are not what the land of the free has ever stood for and neither should it. It’s imperative that we realign ourselves with what made the United States and indeed our entire shared global community extraordinary.

It is the shared responsibility of each and every one of us to inspire, motivate and collaborate, and not separate and alienate.

Let’s return to a time when common sense created common bonds, a time when civilisation put civility front and centre.

For if there is one thing I am absolutely certain of, it is this: we are so much better than this.

DEFINING ‘WHY’ WE TRAVEL

When I think about travel, I remain dedicated to the WHY, rather than the WHERE, WHAT and WHEN.

What do I mean by this? Simply that when it comes to making travel plans, they are often defined by the WHERE – the destination, the WHAT – the things we want to do whilst there, and of course the WHEN – as we try to fit our travel around our hectic work schedules, school holidays or other similar time constraints.

The question that is often overlooked, though, and therefore missed as the heart of the benefit of travelling, is the WHY. WHY do you want to travel?

This simple question can often uncover the real reason someone seeks to explore the world. It may be the fulfilment of a personal dream or a pilgrimage of some kind. It might be a place that holds special meaning. It could be the quest to discover…or the desire to disappear.  The answer to this question can reveal the true value of one’s travel experience, and ignite our passion for the journey.

I believe that now more than ever it is imperative we focus on the WHY when it comes to travel. At a time when borders are slamming shut, it gives me great optimism when I see people celebrating the power of travel to connect different cultures, different ideologies, and different identities around similar dreams of hope, discovery and opportunity.

Through our sustainability iy_logo_english_whiteprogramme, Join Trafalgar, we have  a vision of leading the way on sustainable tourism with our partners – safeguarding the natural beauty, cultures and traditions of the people and places we visit. I was therefore delighted when the United Nations declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.  The UN is seizing upon an important opportunity to help the world recognize the overwhelming contribution that tourism makes for people across the world and how it can significantly impact their lives, not just economically and socially, but also culturally and environmentally. Without a doubt, 2017 is a vital year to ensure our travels also have purpose.

It makes me incredibly proud to share two examples of how and WHY Trafalgar and The Travel Corporation (TTC) are committing to their passion for travelling with a purpose.

Firstly, on January 18th 2017, at the official worldwide launch of the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in Madrid, it was announced that TTC has become a Diamond Sponsor for 2017 in a partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, spoke of the perfect alignment between the UNWTO and TTC, saying:

“The UNWTO is very proud to have TTC as a partner of International Year. Across three generations of Tollman family leadership, TTC through its business and its TreadRight Foundation, has evolved to become a reflection of excellence in delivering traveller experiences that are grounded in the core principles of social, economic, cultural and environmental sustainability. Great admiration is also held for their efforts in building traveller awareness around the positive impact that travellers themselves, can make on the communities and places they visit.”

This is a partnership that will put the spotlight on best practices for people and the planet through tourism throughout 2017 and beyond.

In addition to this exciting news, last October in New York City, through our TreadRight Foundation, Trafalgar, along with six of our sister TTC brands, m2wannounced its commitment to an organization that truly defines the principles of purposeful leadership for the betterment of our world at local level: ME to WE.

The organization was founded by two brothers from Canada, Craig and Marc Kielburger, who recognized early on in their lives the potential that travel has to empower people to not only learn about themselves, but to impart a positive impact throughout the world. I sat with Craig at lunch, and his passion and hands-on approach inspired me as we discussed their various travel-based programmes which enable travellers to support and sustain local communities via a range of actions such as helping to fund and build schools or supporting local economies by purchasing from local artisans.

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Attending the global partnership launch with TreadRight Ambassador Céline Cousteau, ME to WE co-Founder Craig Kielburger and TTC CEO Brett Tollman

In their own words, the Kielburgers said, “Living ME to WE means working together to create sustainable change, and making a difference with everything you do—from choosing travel that leaves a positive footprint on the planet, to making purchases that give back.”

Working in close partnership with Me to We, I am particularly proud to announce Join Trafalgar’s two new immersive voluntourism trips for 2017 which will give our guests the opportunity to truly travel with purpose in Ecuador and India.  


It’s a privilege for us to be able to offer these programmes because they reinforce Trafalgar’s ability to make a genuine difference by enriching and sustaining a diversity of people and places across the globe. In a nutshell, they bring a very passionate WHY to the forefront of my own personal love for exploring the world.

So please, join me in making 2017 the year of meaningful travel.

AIRPORT CONNECTIONS – THE ACHES AND THE AWE

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The final countdown is on. It’s that time of year when most of the world begins to unwind from the year that was and concentrate on the holiday season. As I also get ready to sign off, I find myself thinking back to what I’ve learned, what I’m proud to have done, what I could have done differently.

I am privileged to live in one of the most picturesque cities in the world, Geneva Switzerland. There are few more extraordinary morning commutes than driving along Lake Geneva on a clear winter morning with the might of the Jet ’Eau in the foreground, and majestic Mont Blanc in the distance. To call this great global city ‘home’ is a gift which I am acutely aware.

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I am also fortunate in that my work takes me to numerous countries every year. Admittedly, sometimes it feels as though I spend half my life up at 35,000 feet, but travel feeds my soul – I love being able to venture out in new directions, knowing I am going to discover new places, people, cultures and perspectives. The opportunity to be a true citizen of the world is one of the greatest joys of my life.

For all its beauty though, living in Geneva has a downside when it com
es to setting out on life’s great adventures. As efficient as Geneva Airport (GVA) is, with an almost 80% on-time departure rate in 2015, its relatively small size often means my long-haul journeys of discovery invariably necessitate a connecting flight.

So, as I think back on 2016…the many miles I have covered, the people I’ve met, and the transit memories that linger (good and bad!), I thought today I’d share with you some of my personal favourite airports when it comes to layovers. I’ll also share my least favourites, too, so you know which ones to avoid.

Regardless of where in the world I am travelling, when it comes to airports, first and foremost for me is a singular word – convenience – defined by the relative ease of access and the range of services they provide.  In Europe, hands down – the best are Amsterdam (AMS) and Zurich (ZRH).  Small enough to navigate with ease, but with enough options on offer to keep you from getting bored when you have a few hours to kill.

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Not long ago London Heathrow’s (LHR) Terminal 5 (which was dedicated solely to BA) would have made my list of favourites. However, they’ve gone down a few notches since moving multiple flights back to Terminal 3; I think we can all agree that there is nothing worse than overloaded shuttle buses transferring an unbearable number of travelers caught up in early morning arrivals. Where do I consciously try to avoid for European transfers?  Little debate here: Paris (CDG) and Frankfurt (FRA).  These behemoths are painful to transit through in my experience; they are crowded, with long travel times between terminals and oftentimes confusing connection instructions.

When I travel to Asia, it is normally via the Middle East, either stopping in Dubai (DXB) or Abu Dhabi (AUH); these airports are like impressive cities to themselves, their immense sizes and diversity of offerings really something to behold.
Once construction is complete in these two hub airports, I believe they will be far ahead of all other global airports in holistic design. The only caveat is to make sure you have enough connection time. Both airports are immense and the scale does translate into lengthy terminal and gate distances. In the same spirit of airport experience excellence, the new Doha airport (DOH) is exceptional. Once in Asia, I always enjoy travelling through Singapore (SIN). It is still my favourite, though I miss the convenience of the old BA/Qantas codeshare days.

The best airports in the world stand to emphasise the wonder of travel that touches our lives each year. airport-384562However, as we all know, the curses are out there too. Those airports which simply add stress and frustration to the journey. So where does the award for the worst transfer in the world go? Sadly, it’s most of the USA airports that top my list. In my travel planning, every effort is made to avoid transferring in NYC (especially JFK), San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX). That said, if one does need to transfer in the USA, Denver (DEN) and Atlanta (ATL) are fine; though I must tell you their track record on losing my luggage is abysmal.

Now wherever your travels take you in 2017, may your journeys be safe and smooth, and give you all you seek. But before that, may your year-end holiday season find you surrounded by loved ones.

Wishing you a happy New Year full of fun-filled travel adventures, exploring and discovering our shared world!