TRAVEL AGENTS: A PRICELESS HOLIDAY INVESTMENT

Travel Image - Blog Oct 18

Today more than ever, so many people are enabled to travel, almost anywhere, at almost any time. And the more we travel, the more we learn about the world around us, we learn about ourselves and the difference we can make in our collective world, for the benefit of many. I strongly believe that travel is truly a force for good and provides us an invaluable way to appreciate the wider world and its diversity of people.

What is it that attracts us to the voyage of discovery? Why do we invest our precious time and hard-earned financial resources, leave our homes, and journey across the globe? For me, travel is vital; the introduction to new places and stimulation from meeting new people is energising. With each moment of discovery, our world opens wider, our lives change forever. And there is one constant: once the travel bug bites, there is no cure.

In our imagination we aspire to this world of wonder – spectacular places, fascinating people, delicious foods, distinctive cultures, new adventures and immeasurable joy all awaiting us. But where do we start when turning these dreams into our reality?

As mentioned last month’s blog, Trafalgar recently commissioned research on consumer sentiments surrounding travel. The more we can understand the aspirations of travellers, the more meaningfully we can deliver these dreams. I was surprised to find that 89% of consumers find themselves overwhelmed by the absolute abundance of choice they have when it comes to travel decision-making. On reflection, less surprising when taking time to consider the extraordinary volume of information at our fingertips.

Knowledge is power. Reading about places is fun and enticing. With an almost overwhelming amount of travel resources available – the internet, newspapers, social media, magazines, books television and word of mouth it’s no wonder that our wanderlust is turning into wander perplexed.

This is precisely why in this environment of perplexity, the services of a professional travel consultant, who can help navigate the journey, has become more valuable than ever.

But how do we even know which one to choose? Skill levels vary, as do areas of expertise with destinations and demographics. There is a large delta between travel inspiration and actual travel desires. Therefore, it is an absolute imperative to find an expert in travel who knows the world, is passionate about travel, and understands your needs.

This is a debate I often have with friends. In fact, in mid-October, I will be on an industry panel on ‘The Future of Travel Distribution’ in Phoenix, Arizona – to discuss exactly this. Nowhere in the travel world is there no debate around the relevance and value today of travel agents.

Of course, it’s feasible to sit at home, be inspired by social media, do endless online searches and make your own travel arrangements. But we are mostly all already voluntary slaves to technology. Don’t let your dreams turn into despair. Why would you spend hours online going down a rabbit hole to find that perfect getaway, rather than letting an expert do it for you.

The reality is best described in this analogy: when we are unwell, the first action most of us take is “Dr Google”. Symptoms entered, self-diagnosis done, and increased anxiety and uncertainty often results However, because we are dealing with our health – something not to be taken for granted – we turn to our physician. Why? Because we would never second guess our doctor, despite what the internet has “reliably” told us. Regardless of how much information may be out there, it is our doctor who understands who we are, what we need and how to restore us back to health.

I apply the same principle with travel agents. The secret to finding a holiday that meets your needs is finding a travel agent who truly understands who you are, what you need and dream of in a holiday, and how to get you there. Literally.

Everyone likes to feel special and be a priority. A good travel agent takes the time and trouble to listen to what you want (and don’t want), makes thoughtful and relevant suggestions that reflect your holiday aspirations in all ways, adjust to ensure that the holiday is a genuine ‘fit’, and make it happen time according to your defined resources of time and money. At the heart of a good travel agent experience is simply this: They do the work, all you do is dream, pack and go.

I have a four-step fit for finding your “right” agent for your travels:

First and foremost: EXPERTISE

First-hand knowledge, from the places they have been or learned their customers and fellow agents. By nature, a great travel advisor must be inherently inquisitive. They don’t just sell a destination—they travel, they ask questions, read, discover, research and experience the places for themselves. Quality travel agents travel for work, absorbing every detail of the guest experience. They don’t have to have personally been where you want to go, a colleague has, or their preferred tour operators have. They know the hidden gems in a given destination. They take feedback seriously. Every time they travel they are focusing on these details—so their customers can just dream about their destination and not have to worry.

Second: ACCESS

Always accessible when you are on the road – an imperative when we are subject to the vagaries of travel – cancelled flights, weather, personal circumstance. If something goes wrong, a travel agent can help make it right. And quickly, with minimum of fuss. They answer their phones and respond to their email no matter where you are on the planet. Importantly, they must have clout – they will have developed personal relationships with individuals at the companies they sell, and this gives them leverage you can’t get on your own.

Furthermore: VALUE

This is their lifeblood. Do not begrudge them for it. You are paying for their service and their credibility pays dividends. Generally, I have found that it will not cost you any more than doing it yourself. Their ability to benefit from travel relationships, access and resulting discounts will, with good travel agents, benefit you. If your travel agent charges a fee, the value you receive should be greater than what you would have paid going it alone. We may have the world at our fingertips but a good travel agent cuts through the clutter. And eradicates the risk of your holiday dream becoming a nightmare. Remember in travel, there are no do overs.

Finally: ENDORSEMENT

Choose a travel agent in the same way you would other high-value service providers such as doctors or lawyers: trust the opinion of others. Since travel choices are personal decisions that reflect individual desires and lifestyles, you will want to visit or call a number of consultants to find the one that best suits your needs. One of the largest changes, has been a shift to many different agency models. Look for the ones that best work for you. Trust your instincts – but pay attention to a travel advisor’s willingness to listen and answer questionsAnd never forget that the best advisors want to establish a long-term relationship with you, one that will be a true partnership in which your holiday dreams are fulfilled beyond expectation and is not just seen as a sales-oriented transaction. The most important variable is someone you can trust.

Sharing is a wonderful and consistent element of a great holiday. Invest in finding the right travel agent – the right partner – who can share and guide you is one of the greatest investments you can make. We only have one life, one in which there is no time nor money to waste. After all, travel dreams fulfilled are priceless.

LIFE LESSONS FROM A LOVE OF TRAVEL

Five weeks, across five continents awaits me. For some, a sense of fear may arise but something within me turns that fear of the frenetic into the excitement of the opportunity. In switching my focus to the positive of the multitude of people, places and experiences ahead, I am quickly reminded of the absolute joy of travel – the journey into the unknown, the adventure that invariably turns trepidation into true lasting memories.

To some it may sound cliché to talk about how travel shapes us, how it changes our lives. The abundance of books and films of a certain genre some years back may not have been appreciated by all, but they certainly illustrated the point of how travel can transform our lives. And it truly can –travel will make a positive impact on the lives of the people in the destinations we visit, in the rural businesses we engage with on our holidays, transformative travel changes us, the travellers, in all manner of positive ways.

I always like to remind those around me that nobody goes on holiday to have a bad time. More recently, in reading stories of people feeling stressed about taking leave, about the planning involved, in trying to “make time” to even plan a break. it feels as though travel is becoming almost a burden for some. Curious to understand these emotions and what drives us to travel and the impact it has, Trafalgar recently commissioned some independent research. In reading the findings, focused around the decision making and where, with whom and why, it led me to revisit my own personal transformative travel journey and experiences, which drew me to three main conclusions of how travel has shaped me.

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Photo credit Gavin Tollman

When I reflect on ‘when did it all begin?’, it is immediately clear that I first discovered my love of travel in my pre-teens, clearly a formative time that travel began to shape my life. My father had left South Africa, and I went “overseas” to visit him in London. To go abroad was to boldly venture beyond, as though the entire planet was a blank canvas to be easily engulfed by. With a combination of excitement and nervousness, I flew into the unknown, never imagining the enormous impact, an exceptionally positive domino effect, this one trip would have on my life.

To this day I vividly recall an entirely new world, one that struck me profoundly, inspiring a sense of wonder I could never have predicted. I went to my first live concert – Pink Floyd. Growing up in South Africa, this was a band name written on an album, heard on the radio. These voices had no presence beyond the airwaves. Suddenly I became part of a tribe, united by a love for music that we all knew by intimately, regardless of where we had come from geographically, economically, socially or culturally. Led by a group of incredible, iconic musicians, we all sang our hearts out, together, and then we all went our separate ways.

With each new experience I recognised the world was far greater than I ever envisaged, how other people lived their lives, and yet somehow, we were all connected. From then onwards I was driven to understand the value of everything in life, becoming grateful for all that I had and have, and the privilege to be able to explore beyond my world. Importantly, travel taught me early on to see, feel and learn from other places, other people, but to not judge, and to not compare. As said by a very dear friend: “desire what you have”, looking closely at what we see to understand just why it is because, unlike where I came from, life wasn’t always black or white.

With such a foundation, as I travelled further, I discovered that I began to change in so many ways, and always for the better. I still see this within myself and I see it in countless others as they travel, be it for business or pleasure, be it as a Trafalgar guest or as a guest of any of our other travel businesses, be they young or old, family or friends, coming from near or from far. We are the sum of our parts, united as a travel tribe.

With this in mind, my first finding was that travel richly and irreversibly broadens your perspective of the world and your place in it. By being open to directly experiencing different cultures, customs and communities, by learning about what makes different communities tick, sticking together as they work to create a more hopeful future, we are able to appreciate their experiences, appreciating the meaning and value of their lives in ours. Several years ago I visited Burma and met with children from a monastic school.  On the surface we seemingly had little in common, but their unconditional welcome and kindness of smiles connected us. Imagine my surprise to find some of the boys with bags embellished with the great Chelsea FC, donated by another kind travelling soul. A moment that has turned into a memory forever etched in my mind.

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Photo credit Gavin Tollman

The second finding that emanated from my own inner research was that through travel we have the opportunity to discover more about who we are simply by stepping outside of our comfort zone. To this day, I remain both fascinated and intimidated to step off a plane in a country that doesn’t speak my language and I don’t speak theirs. I’ve realized that those who don’t step outside of their comfort zone, those who choose to play safe and stay caught in the same place, lose the opportunity that will remain forever unknown. I love being able to become a sponge of the senses in a new place – tasting new foods, inhaling new scents, feeling new textures, hearing new accents and making new connections. I’m reminded of the assault on the senses that is a visit to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Was it hectic? Was it noisy? Was it confusing? Was it loud? Was I overwhelmed by the abundance of smells? A resounding yes to all. And how truly fabulous that was. Who knew I could be so involved and intrigued in discovering the myriad types of Turkish delight. The simplest of experiences often give the greatest of pleasures. The fun, the interaction and the negotiating of the bazaar experience – like nowhere else.

Something I feel we are all leaning towards, that of experiences being more precious than material possessions. Memories in travel live with me forever. As is often said, “Travel is the only thing that you pay for that leaves you feeling richer.” Through travel, I have come to understand memories are far more precious in life than anything material we may purchase.  From the sounds of being woken by elephants in the bush in Africa, to the first glimpse of glowing oranges at sunrise or sunset, the opportunity to immerse in such beauty is a true priceless gift.

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Photo credit Gavin Tollman

Through my travels I have discovered what makes me truly happy are the moments that make me feel most alive, it is where I find the people and places that bring out the best in me. In discovering the world, I have been able to discover myself – seeing the hardships of life for others and yet how some people are so utterly grateful for such simple things that bring their life meaning. There is no greater reward than the exchange of smiles with someone with whom you have no other form of communication. The old adage of it being easier to smile than frown has never rung so true than when I’m on my travels. By travelling we effect positive change on the economy and the lives of those there.

Finally, especially for those of us for whom travel is a daily part of our business lives, I encourage you to reset the inner compass of your travelling mind and heart. Develop a desire to explore – that deep down excitement, need, love to keep discovering. This is one of the healthiest addictions a human can possess, one that directly, dramatically, invaluably make us stronger, healthier, happier.

Wishing you all a life of wander-must. Carpe diem. Remember to always be joyous and thankful and enjoy the journey as you continue to travel to transform your life.

HONOURING THE ANIMAL KINGDOM’S SILENT KINGS

MM4Photo credit Mike Myers

While the lion may be deemed ‘king of the jungle’, without question, it is the elephant that boldly, silently and majestically commands the crown of king of all beasts.

I have always admired elephants. I recall with vivid clarity, back in 1995, being woken with abruptness by a large bull elephant who was alarmingly close to my tent at Chikwenya Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe. There was nothing but a sheet of canvas between us. A deep, raw, sensation engulfed me: be silent, be respectful, enjoy every single second as, after all, you’re not going anywhere until he has finished eating and decides to move on.

Being this close to an elephant, you cannot help but be overawed by their dramatic presence: their might yet delicacy, their natural splendour plus spirituality. For me, there is no other animal in the world that compares. They are distinctively unique. To observe their intelligence, compassion and intuitive care for one another, to hear their gentle rumble in the distance, to feel the sheer force yet grace of their being, stays with you forever.

GT Africa Imagery_4Photo credit Gavin Tollman

This fascination with elephants remains. I carry an inner desire to one day spend significant time to understand more about them and the extraordinary extent of their emotions. As individual creatures, and as a collective boldness of herd, they inspire a profound appreciation.

To this day, whenever I am on safari, whether on the banks of Zimbabwe’s great Zambezi River, the breath-taking beauty Okavango Delta of Botswana, or at random watering holes in South Africa’s iconic Kruger Park, I always set aside time to thoughtfully observe and absorb the behaviour of these imposing animals.

Sunday 12th August is #WorldElephantDay. It is a day that, admittedly, stops my heart with sadness. Why? Because it symbolizes the risk these great creatures face. This day was designated for one simple reason: this remarkable species was disappearing at a rate of one every 15 minutes, according to the globally respected Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation. Worryingly, this day is now critical because of significant government changes.

March 2018. The Trump Administration quietly reversed regulations put in place by President Obama that banned Americans from importing body parts of African elephants killed for the sport of trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. This change of policy was imposed despite the fact that, in the last quarter of 2017, President Trump himself branded big game trophy hunting as a ‘horror show’.

June 2018: The wildlife and diamond rich African nation of Botswana, home to more than a third of the elephants left in Africa and unlike many of its Southern African neighbours banned trophy hunting in 2014, indicated that legalization of commercial ivory trade is likely. Horrifically, Parliament adopted a motion asking government to consider lifting the ban on hunting and shooting of elephants in areas that are not designated as game reserves and national parks. History is being rewritten, in a way that is not inscribing a future in which we can feel proud.

In addition, the Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is also coming under attack from lawmakers.

MM5Photo credit Mike Myers

To say I find all of this incomprehensible is a gross understatement. How can we call our world civilized when we are initiating a direct threat on some of the greatest gifts from Mother Nature? Elephants are only endangered because of humans. Humans have been hunting these stately yet defenseless creatures for ivory for centuries, not to mention destroying their natural habitat. it’s estimated there are a mere 415,000 elephants left in the wild of Africa – a shameful decline from the 3.5 million+ that freely, confidently and innocently walked the continent’s great lands at the beginning of the 20th century. If this abhorrent behaviour continues there will be no wild elephants within our lifetime. Unthinkable. Their fate is in our hands.

To quote Sir David Attenborough: “…there are three times as many human beings in the world as when I was starting (my career) in 1952, the effect human beings are having is profound, we are having a great, damaging effect. “Because they are out of touch with the natural world, most of us don’t see that effect we have and don’t understand the processes of the natural world that makes it of crucial importance to the future of humanity.

The message is clear. If it’s left as is for elephants to battle the ongoing threats from humans, there’s no question about it – they would lose. We need to unite as humanitarians, be proactive global citizens and ensure that we do our utmost to preserve and protect these incredible creatures in the wild, for future generations. The time to make a difference is now.

In the year where my family and I have paid homage to our beloved homeland with the introduction of Trafalgar’s inaugural Africa programme, which also coincides with the centenary of the late, great Nelson Mandela – ‘Madiba’ , I share a quote where he exemplifies the sentiment succinctly: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

All is not yet lost, but it soon could be. I urge everyone to play their part and offer some simple steps to tread in the right direction:

  1. Visit elephants in countries where they live in the wild – tourism benefits the economy, provides needed jobs, deters poachers and abuse, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate the beauty, intelligence and emotional capacity of these magnificent giants
  2. Do not, under any circumstances or levels of persuasion, buy ivory or other wildlife products. Be an elephant-aware consumer. Always
  3. Only promote or travel with safe, ethical elephant tourism organisations.  Do not support those that exploit or abuse elephants and other animals for entertainment and profit.
  4. Actively support healthy, alternative, sustainable livelihoods for people who have traditionally relied on elephants, wild animals and natural resources. Learn about indigenous cultures that have traditionally lived in harmony with elephants. And support organizations that are working to protect the habitat for wild elephants and finding solutions for human-elephant conflict.

DSC06631Photo credit Gavin Tollman

Through my many world travel and life experiences I have been fortunate to experience so much greatness around the globe. However, I remain inspired by the desire to assimilate further with elephants. Their extraordinary presence their quiet, humble, yet magnitude of presence has captivated me for most of my life. And for us humans to ensure their continued presence on this planet will, without doubt, change our world, for the better.

These magnificent mammals must be protected and allowed to freely wander their natural, wild habits in an uninhibited way. As a snapshot of an insight into these most curious creatures, I share with you some footage taken by a dear family friend who is also a legendary wildlife guide in Africa and an outstanding photographer. Much of what I know about the bush I owe to the very talented Mike Myers

The future wellbeing and wonder of the world’s elephant population is in our hands. Let us ensure we are the generation that halted the decline of the herbivorous heroes and made a difference to these great grey animals. In the words of the Sir David Attenborough, speaking on their plight: “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” I for one am most certainly not. I urge you to join the charge.

LIVING IN THE MOMENT, NOT FOR IT: STOPPING THE SURGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR THE SAKE OF IT

If it didn’t appear on social media, where we really there?

If it were not for the posted images, would we remember we were there? Or, is it because we were busy taking the shots that were we not able to feel we were there? This is something of a central question around travel at the moment. It is one I’ve been reflecting upon and was brought into greater focus after a recent trip to the USA.

At the end of May I was in “Big Sky Country” – a place where no lens, no imagination even, can capture the magnitude of the vast beautiful blue above. En route to an Advisory Board Meeting, I took some time out to fulfill a bucket list dream with my wife and our extended family. We stepped back in time, into the Wild West, to experience a cattle drive at a wonderful ranch in Wyoming.

IMG_0529Photo credit Gavin Tollman

Whilst in this majestic “Big Sky Country” of endless horizons, a place that allows you to breathe, whilst at the same time taking your breath away with the spectacular vistas, I witnessed something with one of our fellow cowboys that jarred with me. As we took in our surrounds and decompressed from the frenetic outside world, someone raised a mobile phone, then ducked their head, immersed in the desire to feed the omni-present 24/7/365 social media habit. Time stood still…people and place paused…purely to ensure that posting was the priority. This action churned a number of thoughts for me, not least of which was should we be living in the moment, or forever forward thinking about what to post and what would be “liked” the most?

When we are so quick to snap and post that social media shot from our travels, has that second thought even been given to how this destination and experience is making us feel? In that split second of seeking social recognition are we depriving ourselves of the “pinch me” moments, by not taking time to be truly in awe of our surroundings?

We all know about the new reality – that the advent of technology and especially the integration of the smart phone and related apps, has changed the way we see, absorb and engage with our environment – mostly from a minimised perspective. Sadly, I can’t help but feel that this change is not only negatively impacting the moments of real joy that we seek to find on our travels, but also the purity of our motivations for travel. The ability of travel to liberate our hearts and minds through up close and personal experiences is being blocked by our own hands. And it is shaping not just how we travel, but why.

In fact, while scrolling my own social media this week, I saw a post from author, presenter and travel documentary-maker, Simon Reeve mocking his enthusiasm for plentiful instagram posts from Chefchaouen in Morocco. Reeve is a person who both embraces and engages with destinations and people and one I admire for his passion. However, his comment made me consider the frivolity with which others post and don’t see the irony of having the privilege of being in the world’s most beautiful places, yet they are far more concerned with connecting to social media to post images, than connecting themselves with the magic of being in the moment.

It disappoints me to hear of millennials being consumed with the desire to visit a destination being based on its “instagrammability”. We often talk of travel being in the moment, so if we take away those precious seconds to devote to social, how much are we missing? Sure, take the shot, just as we have always done with cameras through the years, but why does insta have to mean instantly for so many? Too many, I believe.

So much of the excitement of travel through the decades has of course been about the experience itself, but also followed by reminiscing about the experiences afterwards via those heartfelt moments and photographs. In the case of most people, you’ve had to wait a whole year to afford a trip. Your followers will surely wait a few hours, or even days.

Technology has the power to either widen, or constrict, the lens through which we see the world. The choice is ours. I fully advocate engaging in social media with purpose. Live your life fully, make memories but always be in the moment, without the hunger for instantaneous, online feedback. The very essence of travel should never change. In our minds, hearts, and mobile devices we must never forget that the voyage of discovery needs to be inspired by the uniqueness of the destination itself. The narrative must be, first and foremost, the voice in our minds and hearts that spontaneously articulates what we see, and feel, in that moment, not what it looks like to the world in those mobile uploads. It’s the emotional sentiment that matters and that precise personal journey and feeling can never be exactly replicated.

Being mindful during your travels means taking the minute between when your food is served not to find the perfect angle for Instagram or Facebook, but instead reflect on how fortunate you are to have this experience, in this intriguing destination, with friends old and new.

Social media is invaluable for keeping in touch, finding inspiration and information, accessing communities and enabling freedom of expression and our voices to be heard on issues that matter to us. But as a tool for travel, it is purely that. It’s not there to enrich us, it is not the purpose of our travel itself and never should it be.

Before you take off on your travels next, I ask you to consider some simple steps to make the most of the lifetime opportunities:

Cherish what you see – Moments of our lives are the most beautiful in their most raw form. Filters and photo-shopping only falsify the beauty of the here and now.

Be yourself – Our online selves can become a dramatically different to the real world of our daily selves. Be true to you.

Be disciplined – Manners matter. No more needs to be said.

Regain balance – Enjoy the freedom and the honesty of low tech from time to time. As shared earlier, so often our tech-connections cause us to disconnect from the rhythm of our lives.

Be Present – Love the moment you are in, without worrying about the ‘likes’

I am not advocating that travelers go completely offline, cutting themselves off from technology. All I am saying is what we all know to be true: do not let the virtual moment eclipse the emotion of the real moment.

Also, every now and then, it does feel wonderful to unplug and escape from social media and from the internet in general. Unplugging is important, reminding us to enjoy the silence, the beauty of our surroundings and using all the senses to be still and peaceful, because we can.  We are not machines, we are human. And the legacy of love for connectivity to people and place will always outlive the instant “likes” online.

IMG_9932Photo credit Gavin Tollman

 

 

 

A RETURN HOME – 72 YEARS IN THE MAKING

GT elephant family trunks entwinedPhoto credit Gavin Tollman

No matter how far and wide one may travel, there is no place like home. Today my wife and I live in Switzerland, the rest of our family is dotted across the globe from London to Los Angeles, Cape Town to Toronto. Yet for all of us, wherever we may be, our hearts will always remain in one place: Africa.

It is impossible to describe just what it is about Africa that so penetrates one’s spirit. A land of abundant beauty and history, stunning scenery and endless horizons, bold energy and intensely rich culture, all of these descriptors apply. But when I am asked what it is that I so love about Africa, only one thought comes to my mind: it is “home”.

It is the land of my history and my roots. Stretching from Cape Town to Cairo, it is in Africa that I feel most alive. And it is in Africa that I can create a most personal journal of my life: racing through the golden grasses of the veld as a child, travelling along the mighty Nile, scaling the Atlas Mountains, releasing a rhino in the Okavango Delta, seeing the city of Nairobi turn a whimsical shade of mauve as Jacarandas burst into Springtime bloom, hearing the unmistakable sound of Zulu drums when in Durban or hearing the call of a lion while sitting around a crackling bushfire after a day on safari. These are my memories, my narratives. These stories that in so many ways define me, are the moments that will remain with me forever.

I am, therefore, excited to share that after an extended wait, the joy of my day job – leading our flagship travel brand, is aligning with my love of Africa. It is with overwhelming pride that I unveil the Trafalgar Africa portfolio. The moment has finally come, a return home, a return to my roots – 72 years in the making.

The timing of Trafalgar’s commitment to Africa has great significance as 2018 marks the centenary of the life of one of the great leaders and fathers of Africa, if not the world – Nelson Mandela (www.nelsonmandela.org/nelson-mandela-100). Also known to South Africans by his clan name, Madiba, he was a proud son of rural Africa who grew to be one of our generation’s most remarkable expressions of courage, compassion, justice, and the journey of a life dedicated to service are concerned. Trafalgar coming home in 2018 is a small homage to the greatest fellow (South) African.

GT Giraffe drinkingPhoto credit Gavin Tollman

Why, might you be asking, did Trafalgar wait this long to fully invest in an Africa programme if our desire to return has been so strong? Waiting has not been easy. However, our commitment to providing nothing but the best when it comes to precious holiday times meant that we needed to have all the pieces in place. We were not prepared to make the promise of being simply the best way to experience Africa unless we could be confident that we could bring our beloved continent to our guests, in our own inimitable way. With TTC’s recent 100% acquisition of the foremost operator in the region, that long-held dream is now very much a wonderful reality.

For our family, to say we take our new Trafalgar Africa itineraries personally is an understatement. Africa is forever our home, the place we know best from our array of personal explorations of the continent. We’ve reached deeper than ever before to share our knowledge and expertise with our guests, weaving in our own passion and history to these handcrafted Trafalgar trips. How else could we do justice to the great blessing of our life’s learnings, our African legacy, sharing with you and your loved ones the secrets and hidden gems that are part of our family collection of favourite memories and moments.

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Central to all of this this is not simply seeing Africa, but experiencing Africa – meeting its people, embracing their warmth of welcome, feeling the vibrancy of their music, appreciating the distinctiveness of their art, savouring the aromas and tastes of their cuisine, understanding their beliefs and what makes their lives hopeful, seeing through their lives a completely different perspective on life. You can’t imagine how different African life is until you see it, and feel it, for yourself. Our goal is to give everyone that travels to Africa fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and fresh inspiration. I challenge anyone not to return with a new lease of life.

By being exposed to Africa’s diversity of people, cultures, landscapes and lifestyles, everyone who visits develops a wider, richer view of the world. This also provides all of us a huge opportunity to not just learn from the way of life but also to give back. Tourism sustains livelihoods throughout the continent. As a family, we feel strongly about preserving and protecting our homeland and those communities with whom we engage. Last year Africa welcomed 62 million international visitors. Our ongoing aim with TreadRight and JoinTrafalgar is to support and showcase as many projects to as many people as we can.

Of all the places in the world to which one can travel, there really is something inexplicable about the intriguing kaleidoscope that is Africa. We hear it time and again, often with a tone of surprise in the voices of people who have made the journey, unaware of just how emotionally and spiritually profound there their time would be. A trip to Africa always expands one’s mind, and one’s heart. Seeing nature and humanity in its pure, perfect balance helps one realize just what really matters. Modern ways of measuring success and happiness simply do not equate on this continent. Value is not about price tags, it is about discovering what is priceless.

In the wonderfully inspirational words from the great Madiba: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.” Nowhere is this exemplified more than in Africa.

For Trafalgar, the journey has been 72 years in the making. The time to travel is now. I look forward to welcoming you on our Trafalgar Africa journey home.

GT pink sunsetPhoto credit Gavin Tollman

 

 

 

 

THE IMPERATIVE OF TREADING RIGHT

St. Marco, Venice, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Veneto, Italy, Europe

I was deeply disappointed when President Rodrigo Duterte, the Head of State of the Philippines, recently made good on his threat of closing the Island of Boracay to tourists for six months. From now until October, the 2017 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award winning destination will be off limits to all visitors.

In the President’s own words, this dream destination has turned into a ‘cesspool’. What a terrible precedent, a worst-case scenario and a stark warning to us all. This official ban on tourism results in an official shutdown of employment for thousands of residents. ‘Overtourism’ has them out of business. For their families, this means being left out in the cold.

This is not new news. In 2017, we saw numerous scathing articles as regards the ‘over tourism’ debate and the outcry from concerned officials in destinations such as Dubrovnik, Barcelona and Venice, who called foul of the excessive crowds and pressure on local infrastructure. The rumblings are no longer an early warning sign. They are a painful reality.

For those of us in the travel industry, we need to recognise that as the Northern Hemisphere summer rapidly approaches, we have a direct responsibility to address, head on, the risks and increasing realities of overcrowding. This curse of unmanaged growth of the sector is creating real problems for the very places – and their people – that are inspiring us to travel in the first place.

Tourism growth is not the enemy, nor are growing visitor numbers. Tourism can and should be a force for good, creating jobs and long-term sustainable economic growth. When managed carefully, holistically, and for the long-term, tourism has the ability to sustainably advance economies and societies, while protecting cultures and environments that epitomise destination identity.

But how do we stop the trend of the tragedy of not treading lightly? How do we unlock positive tourism growth and impact?

Frustrated at seeing the severity of the situation, I have established a three-step solution which I believe will aid long-term tourism management.

Step 1: Dissemination – Adopting a ‘365’ approach to tourism, working to ensure year-round tourism to ensure sustained destination visitation and resulting tourism business momentum. Our industry is about giving, not just taking. Sustaining a business for longevity and legacy means driving tourism activity beyond the peak season. Seasonal tourism management alleviates such pressures – it allows us to be enablers not eliminators when it comes to helping local businesses in the likes of Dubrovnik, Venice, Barcelona or wherever it may be. We must break the bottleneck approach by staggering travellers across the seasons.

Step 2:  Dispersal – Encouraging discovery beyond the usual tourism centres, widening the guest’s travel path to discover other areas within the destination. At Trafalgar we take pride in encouraging our guests to discover the iconic as well as get below the surface of the places we visit by exploring villages, going beyond the expected and connecting with communities. Travel is about forging new paths, the adventure of delving deeper into destinations. By creating new and interesting experiences we not only promote lesser-known areas for our guests to explore, we ensure we are maximizing the immense benefits of for more people to experience the beautiful places we visit, all year-round.

Step 3:  Direct Action – Let us all understand the power of direct conscious thought on what we do. We should recognise that at times we need to support, other times we need to approach what we are doing in a different way. A great example of this being the UNESCO listed Giants Causeway, which pre 2012 was struggling to cope with the ever-growing influx of fleeting visits. The National Trust wisely realised that by focusing on an initiative that would provide education and interpretation of the area, they could embrace the opportunity to welcome more visitors without impacting the environment. With the creation of a new visitor sustainable visitor centre to help manage people flow, it was designed with a roof seeded from local grasses and also blended into the surrounding environs in a place of natural beauty. In 2017, Giants Causeway welcomed 1 million visitors, a record for any Northern Ireland attraction. Moreover, the new facility demonstrated the importance of enabling and preserving as opposed to running the risk of eliminating, with people roaming without regard for what they are seeing. Trafalgar is proud to have been involved with such a commendable initiative.

It is imperative that when taking action in the destination, this must, must be done so in genuine partnership with locals – the emphasis being onworking with them to ensure the betterment of the places they call home. In doing so we ensure a focus on safeguarding the natural beauty, cultures and traditions of the people and places we visit, which is how we are able to instill the power of travel to truly change lives, both for travellers and for those people in the places they visit.

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Reflecting on the above, I am reminded of a recent trip to Dublin, where I met with Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland. who advised that “Tourism is our largest indigenous industry, with more than 281,000 people across the island employed in the sector.” His pride and sense of determination was clear when he shared with me his enduring ambitions for his country of birth, stating: “In 2017, we welcomed approximately 10.65 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland, delivering revenue of about €5.78 billion. In 2018, we aim to grow overseas tourism revenue by +5%, to €6 billion for the island of Ireland; and to grow visitor numbers to 10.8 million (+2%). Our aim is to position Ireland as a year-round, ‘must visit’ destination and to ensure that the contribution of overseas tourism to the economy continues to expand.” It was a true meeting of minds to hear him make such a statement.

Travel is one of life’s great gifts. We now know that it comes with great responsibility. We are blessed to be able to see beautiful places that excite our eyes and ignite a fire in our hearts. But we cannot let the places have a shared passion for be loved to the point of extinction. The future of our industry is now moving beyond exploration – let us ensure that becomes a firm step towards preservation, not elimination.

We must take action, now, or face the fact that the damage occurring may be irreversible. As little we are in this world, we can make a big difference by each of us changing our behaviours – opening our minds and eyes to how big a responsibility we have to help preserve our precious planet. This is our new travel destiny. Welcome to the new reality.

Dubrovnic

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.

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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.