What’s on the Travel News Menu for June-July 2017?
1. Europe’s largest operator of luxury self-drive boating vacations is launching its first North American cruises in 2018 with 7-day options on Canada’s historic Rideau Canal in Ontario.
2. City walking tours with homeless and ex-homeless guides in Vienna, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona are creating inspiring social enterprise opportunities for authentic storytelling and work experience. Hundreds of participant reviews on TripAdvisor are fabulous!
3. Good news on the disappearing and diverted air flight luggage front with promises that this frustrating phenomenon will be a thing of the past one year from now, thanks to new technology. Read about it here.
4. The world’s most beautiful sea turtle needs our help to survive. If vacationers (especially cruise ship guests) stop buying trinkets and jewelry made from the animal’s shell, chances of survival will increase dramatically. Shops and stalls in the Caribbean and Latin America will only stop selling if we stop buying!
Before planning your next adventure, you may compare accommodation alternatives with sites such as www.trivago.com or use their data base for further information about your destination and read traveler hotel reviews.
Check Travel Golf Guide. Play golf in Algarve.
For 2018 Le Boat Debuts Self-Drive Boating Vacations
on Ontario’s Historic Rideau Canal
Le Boat, Europe’s largest operator of self-drive boating vacations, has begun taking reservations for its first North American destination in Ontario, Canada’s historic Rideau Canal, for the 2018 boating season. On seven-day cruises between Ottawa and Kingston, vacationers will discover the natural scenery and historic villages of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the route taking travelers along a chain of lakes, rivers and canals.“The picturesque Rideau Canal is the place to be next summer. With endless land and water activities along the route from fishing, paddle boating, canoeing to hiking, biking and bird-watching, this will be an amazing experience for all ages, including multi-generational families and groups of friends renting more than one boat,” said Cheryl Brown, managing director, Le Boat.
“We are seeing a lot of interest from former European and U.S. customers with virtually all of them saying they would travel to Ontario for a boating holiday.” All cruises will start and finish at the Smith Falls base located mid-way between Ottawa and Kingston. Suggested routes are offered, but travelers have complete flexibility with their itinerary and the freedom to cruise as much or as little as they want. All they have to do is return their boat at the agreed date and time.The new Ontario base will launch with a fleet of 16 Horizon cruisers, featuring large staterooms and an upper deck with a sunbathing area. Each ensuite cabin comes with air-cooling and heating systems, as well as USB ports accessible for passengers to recharge their electronic devices.
Le Boat is looking to expand this fleet in the area to at least 32 cruises in the next five years. For 2018 a seven-day cruise on a fully-equipped two-cabin Horizon boat that sleeps four starts US$1,775 (approx. CAD$2,397). Like a car rental, this cost does not include fuel or marina fees to park your boat.
When it comes to history and culture, think about taking in Ottawa’s spectacular Tulip Festival in May; explore North America’s only remaining operating grist mills in Manotick; or visit Canada’s prettiest village, Merrickville, dubbed the ‘Jewel of the Rideau’.
Food and drink are highlights of a cruise, from fabulous fine-dining experiences ashore to chic boutiques and trendy watering holes. Visit the Perth Brewery and try its maple-flavored ale for a true taste of Canada; indulge in a lakeside wine-tasting and lunch at the Scheuermann Vineyard and Winery in Westport; or test your knowledge of cheese at the Forfar Cheese Factory, the oldest in Ontario.Opportunities for adventure are all along the route, from swimming and fishing to rock climbing and nature hiking through picture-perfect forests, wetlands and meadows, ideal for families and birders.
Le Boat, www.leboat.com, is the leading self-drive boating rental company, with more than 40 years of experience in the industry, operating its own fleet of 900 self-drive cruisers from a network of over 37 different departure bases across eight European countries. Renters can sleep on board in 5-Star comfort and style, saving substantially on hotel costs. All boats feature fully-equipped kitchens, comfortable furnishings, showers and bathrooms, and warm air heating. They also feature air-conditioning, depending on the model.
No experience or boating license is necessary. Instructions and an orientation are provided to first-time renters, ensuring they get the most out of their boating vacation. Unlike conventional cruises that follow a pre-planned itinerary, Le Boat provides guests with suggested itineraries but allows them to visit the towns and attractions that most interest them on a particular route.To further appreciate this immediate region, check out two related feature articles in our publication’s Travel Article Library: one highlights what to see and do in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, and another article explores a part of the Rideau Canal region in detail.
Walking Tours in Vienna, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona:
An Inspiring Social Enterprise Led by Homeless and Ex-Homeless Guides
In Vienna a walking tour guided by homeless people or recently ex-homeless people is attempting to change the way tourists experience the Austrian capital. Taking in the city center, the tours give travelers a unique perspective on the city, while offering an opportunity to support homeless people. It’s an eye opener but this authentic, professional and insightful tour will draw you into a mostly hidden and unseen world.
Delivered in English or German, Shades Tours Vienna www.shades-tours.com/en, offers three routes led by three different guides who share their personal experience about living on the streets and their in-depth knowledge of the different ‘shades’ of homelessness that occur in Vienna. The aim of this landmark project is to ‘alleviate poverty through tourism and help people overcome their prejudices surrounding homelessness’.
Two hours for 15 Euros is the modest price. Initially inspired by similar tours in Amsterdam, London and Barcelona, the Shades Tours Vienna founder has worked closely with 18 community partners including local charities, tourism partners and social organisations to build a supportive system that encourages travellers to ask questions and have open discussions surrounding homelessness. The tours also encourage homeless guides to reintegrate back into full time work.
Unseen Tours, http://sockmobevents.org.uk, in London, England provides a similar guided option through a choice of four of London’s core areas … an alternative street-level tour of the city for just £12. In case you think this a bit of a risky way to spend your tour money, check out TripAdvisor’s 5-star rating based on an enviable 479 participant reviews! It is in the top 35 tours around London out of 689 rated on TripAdvisor.Until you take such a tour and hear the personal stories, you may believe that homelessness could never happen to you. It can happen to anyone. The ex-homeless guides of the Homeless Tour of Original Tours & Events Amsterdam, http://english.originaltours.nl/homeless-tour, will show you all the special places of the Red Light District and the most crazy, sometimes funny, stories. Overall, a very impressive tour through Amsterdam that you definitely will not forget. Walking tours are 1.5 hours from €14,50 per person, depending on size of the group.
Hidden City Tours www.hiddencitytours.com, in Barcelona, Spain is doing a great job of creating legitimate work for the homeless as well as restoring pride and confidence in guides who have joined the team. As they say, who best to show you the streets of Barcelona than someone who has lived on them! Offering six options at €16 per person, depending on group size, tours are delivered in English, German and French. TripAdvisor’s 5-star rating with 342 participant reviews positions this tour at 30th out of 545 tours in Barcelona. Well deserved congratulations!
If you have encountered tours like this elsewhere in the world, please let us know, and we will check them out for possible sharing with our 1.74 million senior travel readers.
Air Travel Trivia: One third of the world’s airports are in the USA.
Great News on the Mishandled Luggage Front
According to a new SITA Baggage Report released in early May 2017, airlines are definitely getting better at looking after their passengers’ bags. The report shows the rate of mishandled bags was 5.73 bags per thousand passengers in 2016, down 12.25% from the previous year and the lowest ever recorded. This is despite a rise in the number of passengers, which last year hit an all-time high of 3.77 billion globetrotters.
In the last 10 years, SITA, which is owned by the worldwide air transport industry, says the rate of mishandled baggage has fallen 70% due to investment in technologies and process improvements. Further improvements are coming by June 2018 by which time every piece of checked baggage will be tracked along its journey.
Under International Air Transport Association (IATA) Resolution 753, which comes into force from June 2018, every bag must be tracked and recorded at four mandatory points – at check-in, aircraft loading, at transfer between air carriers, and on arrival as the bag is delivered back into the hands of the passenger.
Ilya Gutlin, SITA president, air travel solutions, says, “It is frustrating for both passengers and airlines when bags go missing but the days of not knowing where your bag is will soon to be a thing of the past. Each bag will be tracked just like a parcel.” “We are on the brink of a new era in airline baggage management because the world’s airlines are committing to track baggage throughout its journey. This requires data capture, management and sharing across airlines, airports and ground handlers giving a better view of where each piece of luggage is at every stage.”
SITA’s report also shows the financial impact of lost bags on the industry the costs of which must ultimately be passed on to the client. They remain high despite the drop in the mishandled rate, with the global bill for recovering and reuniting passengers with their bags reaching around US$2.1 billion in 2016.
But don’t worry, there will still be plenty to complain about with an airline industry we love to hate … indifferent food, late connections or no connections at all, grim flight attendants and disruptive passengers, and bags returned to their owners in a damaged state. But none of us is staying home if we can help it …remember that 3.77 billion travelers at the beginning of this story? Are you curious to find out what happens to your luggage if it really does get lost forever? You will feel much better when you read our latest feature article on the subject.
Survey Finds Turtleshell in 30% of Latin American and Caribbean Souvenir Shops:
Highly Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles are the Casualty!
One tourist at a time can help save the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle from extinction. A report on a recently concluded three-month survey of nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean identified over 10,000 turtleshell items for sale at more than 200 souvenir shops and street stands. Though the international trade of hawksbill turtleshell has declined over the past few decades, this report shows that strong demand for these products among visitors continues in the region. Twelve conservation organizations joined forces to collect the data as part of the Too Rare To Wear campaign.The report, titled “Endangered Souvenirs,” investigated tourist areas in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Grenada, and Colombia. The products identified had a total value of more than US$50,000 though the numbers should be considered very conservative as only products in view were counted. Prices ranged from a low of less than US$1 for bracelets and rings in Nicaragua to as high as US$200 for an elaborate comb in Havana, Cuba. Nicaragua had by far the largest numbers for sale with more than 7,000 items counted and roughly 70 percent of shops found selling them.
“Our research will help inspire and educate tourists traveling to the Caribbean and Latin America to be part of the solution and purchasing wisely,” said Brad Nahill, President and Co-Founder of SEE Turtles and director of Too Rare To Wear, a non-profit project of The Ocean Foundation partnering with a coalition of conservation organizations, tour operators and tourism partners, media outlets, and others that support sea turtle conservation and promote ecotourism around the world. It’s worth knowing who they are.
The study shows that North Americans and Europeans are the top purchasers of these products, and they pay the highest prices for these products. Cruise ship passengers in particular were identified by vendors as primary consumers in several places, including Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Grenada, and Honduras. Though the international trade is illegal under CITES (the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) rules, several vendors reported that their products were imported from other countries, primarily from Nicaragua but Cuba was also mentioned as a source.“Cruise ship passengers in particular need to be more discerning when purchasing souvenirs. Several sellers of turtleshell reported that their top purchasers come from international cruise ships. These companies have an opportunity to help stop this trade by educating their cruise clients on how to avoid turtleshell products,” said Nahill.
This information will assist an educational campaign that Too Rare To Wear launched recently within the travel industry. But passengers can also actively encourage cruise companies to educate their clients prior to shore excursions. The goal is to inspire tourists visiting these regions to avoid purchasing hawksbill shell trinkets, jewelry, and souvenirs, thereby ending the demand for these products.
As of early 2017, the world’s tropical beaches are only hosting an estimated 15,000 remaining nesting female hawksbill sea turtles. Market forces targeting hawksbills are outrunning conservation efforts to save the species and its coral reef habitat.
Considered to be the most beautiful of sea turtles owing to their colorful shell, which helps to camouflage them in coral reefs, this beauty has also led to their severe decline. It is estimated that in the last 100 years global hawksbill populations have declined by a staggering 90 percent. Their shell is covered in colorful gold, brown, orange, and reddish streaked overlapping scales which can be polished and carved to make jewelry, trinkets, and other embellishments.
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