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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Watch Our New Video on You Tube: "Most Popular Vacation Experiences with Today's Generation of Travelers"

You Tube link: http://bit.ly/Most_Popular_Group_Travel_Experiences

Or click here to watch the video:
Most Popular Vacation Experiences with Today's Generation of Travelers

Video Description
What are today's most popular group travel vacations and experiences? Discover them in this video including adventure, family travel, faith-based travel, sports tourism, culinary travel, agritourism, student travel, voluntourism, fairs & festivals, health & wellness, learning vacations and much more. Above all, today's travelers are searching for vacation opportunities that tap into their passions in life. We're in a new era of group travel which features all ages, demographics, budgets and types of vacation experiences. What about the future? Travelers will continue to seek out more specialized and authentic vacation experiences while traveling with family, groups or respective communities.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Debut of My New Logo for New Era

As we prepare for the New Year of 2013.....I am very excited to debut the new logo for my blog "Growth Markets in Tourism" - along with a new look and feel for my blog!

The title and sub-heading of the new logo says it all about how the travel industry is evolving.  Today's tourism marketplace is led by growth markets and driven by a new generation of travelers.

What is the New Generation of Travelers?
+ All ages
+ All budgets
+ All demographics
+ All types of vacation experiences

The key to success in modern-day tourism is to discover this new generation of travelers, who they are, what they want and how to best serve them. By doing so, you'll tap into the industry's growth markets.

And my blog is here to assist you in that accomplishment.....

Friday, December 21, 2012

China Continues as Global Emerging and Growth Tourism Market

NTA Enters Next Phase of China Inbound Program
Association will continue ‘building a bridge to the market in China.’

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 19, 2012)—Fresh off a successful partnership with Brand USA last month at the China International Travel Mart in Shanghai, NTA is moving into the next phase of its award-winning China Inbound Program.

The program began in 2008, when the governments of the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding allowing Chinese leisure travelers to visit the United States in group tours. Since then NTA has maintained a list of U.S. tour operators registered to handle inbound Chinese group travelers. In 2010 the association opened the NTA Visit USA Center in Shanghai as a hub for marketing travel to the United States and facilitating business connections with the U.S. and Chinese trade. The office was operated in cooperation with, and with support from, the International Trade Administration’s Market Development Cooperator Program.

“When we created our China Inbound Program and opened the NTA Visit USA Center, there was no national, comprehensive program to market the United States as a destination. Now that Brand USA and the Visit USA Committee are becoming active in the market, NTA will not operate the Visit USA Center in Shanghai,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “NTA has played an important role in promoting the United States and helping the industry gain market share, so we will remain very active in the market.”

Simon added that NTA will continue to provide consulting and educational sessions, organize trade events such as the U.S. Pavilion at the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market in April in Beijing and present the second China Market Forum during Contact, NTA’s tour operator event, which will be held in Hawai‘i, the big island, Aug. 15–17.

While establishing a dynamic presence in China at key trade shows—and through road shows organized by the association—NTA has garnered several awards. They include the Chinese Tourists Welcoming Award from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (2012) and the Gold Award at the World Travel Fair (2011, 2012). And at its convention last December, NTA was honored for its work with the Chinese market by the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service, which awarded NTA a Certificate of Appreciation for Achievement in Trade for “exceptional contributions to U.S. travel and tourism exports in the China market.”

“NTA can be proud of the role the association played in building a bridge to the market in China," said Isabel Hill, deputy director of Travel and Tourism Industries at hte U.S. Department of Commerce. Their work clearly contributed to the growth of travel and tourism exports, and I’m confident that, with NTA’s continued involvement, travel to the United States will continue to increase.”

NTA embarked on its China Inbound Program just as the market began to increase dramatically. Overall, the number of Chinese visitors into the United States rose from 493,000 in 2008 to more than a million (1,089,000) in 2011, with a forecasted total of 1,536,000 in 2012. U.S. tour operators participating in NTA’s program enjoyed a similar increase. The number of tourists in groups handled quarterly by the 149 NTA operators rose from 46,709 in 2010 to 121,180 in the most recent survey, conducted in the third quarter of 2012.

About NTA: Founded in 1951, NTA is the leading business-building association for travel professionals (from more than 40 countries) interested in the North American market—inbound, outbound and within the continent. Travel Exchange is the annual convention.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tourist Offices to Discuss Growth Markets in Tourism and Other Economic Strategies at "NTA Destination Leaders Forum"

Destination Leaders to Collaborate at Travel Exchange
Forums will cover economy’s impact on marketing and packaged travel.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 20, 2012)—NTA will host two Destination Leaders Forums on Jan. 23 in Orlando, Fla., where chief executives of destination marketing organizations will discuss the challenges they have faced during a struggling global economy, its effect on packaged travel, and what solutions lie ahead.

“DMO budgets have been reduced—and sometimes eliminated—as governments cut back during the economic downturn,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “So our questions are: What strategies have organizations used—and how can we work together to ensure a robust packaged-travel industry? That’s what will result from this thought-leader discussion.”

The Destination Leaders Forums comprise two sessions at the Orange County Convention Center during Travel Exchange, the convention and trade show for NTA and the United Motorcoach Association. A morning session includes state and provincial leaders from North America, and an afternoon session brings together leaders of national tourism organizations. In both sessions, participants will uncover shared obstacles and develop workable solutions.

Working with NTA to organize the event is Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon and chairman of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. He said that now, amid signs of strengthening economies, is the time for DMOs to collaborate.

“We have collectively weathered a global recession, but nowhere is the adage, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of the parts,’ more true than in the travel and tourism industry,” Davidson said. “Coming together to explore, evaluate and envision where we’ve been and where we’re heading will give the industry a more complete picture to launch new strategies from.”

To help form that picture, each participant will submit, prior to the forums, a description of its organization and its challenges, plus a projection for the year ahead. When they gather in Orlando, the DMO leaders will share the tactics and innovations they have used to market their destination and attract groups despite budget cuts. Both sessions will be moderated by Helen Marano, vice president of government and industry affairs for the World Travel and Tourism Council.

“After our face-to-face forums, NTA will release our findings in a white paper,” said Simon. “We’ll also use this information to educate our members and enhance packaged travel.”

The 90-minute sessions begin at 9 a.m. (U.S., Mexico and Canada states and provinces) and 2:30 p.m. (national offices). NTA issued invitations to chief executives of all U.S. states, Canadian provinces, Mexican states, and national tourism offices.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays from Growth Markets in Tourism!

 Here's a fun photo of my company wishing everyone a jolly holiday season!! 

Can you find me in the picture? Hint: I'm wearing flag football gloves :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Family That Travels Together, Stays Together (Published by Agent Life Magazine)

A excellent article written by Erika Fifelski about today's family travel marketplace was just published by NACTA via their publication "Agent Life Magazine." 

Here's the link to read the full story "The Family That Travels Together, Stays Together":

Click here to learn more about NACTA - National Association of Career Travel Agents

The National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) is the foremost Travel Industry Association dedicated to providing the finest education, training, networking and representation in support of Career Travel Agents.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hilton Hotels Debuts Family Travel Website (a.k.a. Hilton Mom Voyage)

I often blog about family travel being one of the biggest and fastest growing new segments of travel. We see this everywhere from tour operators and travel agents debuting new family travel programs to destinations such as tourist offices and CVBs adding content to their websites to attract family vacation travelers.

And now Hilton Hotels enters the picture with a brand new family travel website titled Hilton Mom Voyage, which features 15 moms sharing their own Hilton vacation experiences.

To read more about this story and endeavor, click on this ABC News story:

The following statement from the above article sums up the new website best.....

"Our research shows that moms play an integral role in the family vacation planning process. Creating a forum for moms and dads to share family travel insights and experiences directly with our future guests will help travelers navigate our resort and leisure portfolio to find the properties that best meet the experiences they want to share during the valuable time families spend together," said Bonnie Campagnuolo, senior director of global brand marketing at Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Agritourism Tour of Jim Beam Bourbon Distillery in Kentucky

There's one thing I learned when I first moved to Kentucky - and it's that Kentucky is the Bourbon Capital of the World.

So when my parents came on a recent visit, I made sure to take them on a bourbon distillery tour and the place we chose was Jim Beam Distillery. While we were on the guided tour, I began thinking my visit of a bourbon distillery tour could make for a great blog post - especially since such type of touring falls under the concepts and growth markets of agritourism, factory (plant) touring, as well as culinary/food touring.  As such, I began taking photos feverishly of which you can see my fruits below!

By the end of our visit, we had spent money on the guided tour tickets, souvenirs and other items in the gift shop, as well as at a nearby restaurant and of course on gas.  All of this is a classic example of how destinations and organizations can turn a site as straightforward as a bourbon distillery into a place of tourism and added economic growth for the surrounding region.

+ Official Website http://www.americanstillhouse.com
+ Info about touring Jim Beam Distillery

Special note: One of the great things about the distillery tour at Jim Beam is that it's very interactive. You can see in some of the photos below some of the ways we got our hands a little dirty by personally participating!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Career Discussions: Travel Jobs Yield Higher Earnings (Travel Market Report; Article by Harvey Chipkin)

A story just published this week by Travel Market Report and written by Harvey Chipkin conveys some impressive information about the travel industry: Success in tourism can pay and reward well. 

One of my favorite statistics in the article below is that 1 in 5 Americans get their first jobs in a travel-related industry.  

As I reflect back myself, my first job was working at the Space Needle in Seattle, WA followed by college summers with Holland America, SeaWorld and Victoria Clipper.

Article Title: Travel Jobs Yield Higher Earnings, More Education
Article Link: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Travel-Jobs-Yield-Higher-Earnings-More-Education

Travel Jobs Graph 120612

Workers who begin their careers in travel earn more money, have greater access to educational opportunities and enjoy better career progress.

Nearly 40% go on to earn more than $100,000 a year. Overall, individuals who begin their work lives in travel go on to achieve higher maximum salaries than those in other industries.

Those are among the striking conclusions of a new report compiled by the U.S. Travel Association based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report is titled “Fast Forward: Travel Creates Opportunities and Launches Careers.”

Dispels misperceptions
U.S. Travel executives said the report dispels widely held notions that travel industry jobs are low-paying, with little expectation of advancement. They noted that negative perceptions of travel careers are a result of associating travel jobs with front-line employees in hotels and restaurants.

The report draws on Bureau of Labor Statistics data tracking more than 5,000 workers across many industries. The bureau interviewed workers every year between 1979 and 1994 and every two years between 1994 and 2010.

Building the middle class
In a press conference this week, Roger Dow, CEO of U.S Travel, said the report "shows that travel jobs are valuable jobs. . . . Those who start in travel progress farther than in other industries, eventually achieving higher wages and education levels.”

Individuals who start their careers in travel achieve an average maximum salary of $81,900 annually, higher than in other industries, according to U.S. Travel. (See graph below.)

“This industry builds the middle class, as 53% of workers currently in the travel industry earn middle class salaries or better, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor,” Dow said. The government defines a middle class wage as between 75% and 200% of the median wage in the U.S.

Transferable skills
Education levels among travel industry workers also are high. Among those who started in travel, 33% have bachelors or more-advanced degrees.

“Travel is a rewarding career because it teaches valuable skills – including interpersonal, discipline and time management skills. That translates into building long-term careers in and out of travel,” Dow said.

“The conclusion is compelling,” said Dow. “Travel provides transferable skills that are indispensable.”

20% start out in travel
One in five Americas get their first jobs in a travel-related industry, according to David Huether, senior vice president for research and economics at U.S. Travel.

“Core” travel jobs include those in: air, hotel, entertainment and recreation services, restaurants, museums and art galleries, car rental, zoos, and scenic and sightseeing transportation, Huether said.

Huether called the research “groundbreaking” because it tracked workers over a period of 30 years. “We asked the Labor Department if anybody had ever done an analysis of people who started in a particular industry and where they went. We were told that had not been done before this report.”

U.S. Travel plans to use the report to support the travel industry’s lobbying work, Dow said. “We will be transmitting this report to governmental officials to show again the importance of our industry as a creator of not just jobs but good jobs.”

Travel Jobs Yield Higher Earnings, More Education

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Agritourism World: A Resource for the Travel Trade

If you're involved in agritourism, looking to enter this marketplace, wanting to connect with suppliers or simply hope to learn a little more about this marketplace - an excellent resource to know about and refer to is Agritourism World. Below is the link to the Agritourism World website along with its official description.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF AGRITOURISM WORLD: http://agritourismworld.com/

AgritourismWorld is the leading search portal dedicated to Agriculture and Farm based Tourism. It is our mission to connect the traveling public with Farms and Ag Related destinations that welcome tourism. As the #1 Agritourism web site, we hope to enrich the experience of visitors and help farms and Ag Destinations make Tourism a Cash Crop. Together we build a sustainable tourism market.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Personal Letter Invitation to Tour Operators to Join NTA's Holy Land Product Development Trip

Personal Letter Invitation from Paul Larsen,
President of Ed-Ventures and Chairman of NTA's Faith Tourism Advisory Council.

Do you currently sell tours to the Holy Land? Or are you seeking to enter this market?

If yes, you might be a great candidate to join NTA’s first-ever Montage Product Development Trip to the Holy Land, hosted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the Jordan Tourism Board. I hope you will join me on this trip!

NTA's Holy Land Product Development Trip is ideal for tour operator executives, product development managers and sales personnel. Click here to learn more and register today! Space is limited. NTA must receive your application by December 13 to guarantee the special PDT airfare.

The purpose of the program is to assist tour operator members in developing, enriching and expanding their tour product and portfolios in the Holy Land. In addition, you can:
  • Meet and establish relationships with local ground operators, hotels, restaurants and other suppliers.
  • Network and establish business relationships or partnerships with fellow NTA tour operators specializing in faith-based travel.
  • Gain cutting-edge knowledge and practical insights about today's religious traveler and develop a successful Holy Land tour product and portfolio.
How can I learn more about the Holy Land PDT and register?

For more information or to ask questions, contact me or NTA.

Best regards,
Paul Larsen

President, Ed-Ventures Inc.
Chair, NTA Faith Tourism Advisory Council

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Canadian Tourism Industry Special Report (Just Published!)

What are key growth markets in Canadian tourism? You can learn this information and much more in the newly published "The Canadian Tourism Industry Special Report".

Here's the news release on above subject:

HLT Advisory Inc. is pleased to have collaborated with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada ("TIAC") and Visa Canada to produce a special report on Canadian tourism.  This report was recently released at TIAC's annual conference at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec.

The report is a comprehensive summary of key performance metrics profiling the current state of Canada's tourism industry as well as insights drawn from these data.

The report is available by clicking on any of following links:


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Books on Culinary Tourism

Are you looking to learn more about Culinary Tourism either as a travel executive, tourism employee, student or budding entrepreneur?

If so, here are a few books to check out and consider reading to become familiar with this burgeoning industry.


Culinary Tourism (Material Worlds) by Lucy M. Long (Sep 15, 2010)


Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest by Erik Wolf and International Culinary Tourism Assn. (Feb 20, 2006)


Proceedings of the European Culinary Tourism Conference 2011 (Science and Practice Series of the FHWien University of Applied Sciences of WKW) by Michael Mair and Daniela Wagner (Jun 29, 2012)


The Book On Culinary Tourism in West Sweden by Lena Mossberg; Inger Svensson (2009)

Arizona's Salsa Trail - A Foodie's Guide to Culinary Tourism in Southeastern Arizona by Christine Maxa, Robert J. Early and David A. James (Jun 8, 2009)

Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes by Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate (Oct 4, 2011)

Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam by Kim Fay and Julie Fay Ashborn (May 1, 2010)

Spain...A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow (Oct 21, 2008)

The Cheeses of Wisconsin: A Culinary Travel Guide by Jeanette Hurt (Jun 17, 2008)

The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide by Jeanette Hurt (Apr 20, 2009)

Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route by Andreas Viestad and Mette Randem (Oct 1, 2007)

Delicious Travel: Culinary Adventures Around South Africa by Gwynne Conlyn (Sep 28, 2005)

Food Tourism Around The World: Development, Management and Markets (New Canadian Library) by C Michael Hall, Liz Sharples, Richard Mitchell and Niki Macionis (Oct 9, 2003)

Wine Tourism Around the World: Development, Management and Markets by C Michael Hall, Liz Sharples, Brock Cambourne and Niki Macionis (Apr 1, 2002)

Friday, November 16, 2012

One billion tourists: One billion opportunities - new UNWTO campaign calls on one billion tourists to make their actions count

See entire Press Release of UNWTO below link:


Small changes in travel behavior can contribute to positive change throughout the world. With one billion tourists traveling the world in a single year in 2012, transforming these one billion tourists into one billion opportunities is at the heart of the online campaign launched by UNWTO to celebrate this historic milestone.

Recalling the power of travel and tourism in driving economic growth and sustainable development, the One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities campaign asks the public to vote for the travel tip they believe would have the greatest benefit for the people and places they visit, from using public transport to buying locally, and pledge to follow that tip when traveling.   

“Imagine the difference one tourist could make by adopting small changes, from using their towels for more than one day, to hiring a local guide or buying local products. Now imagine if these simple actions were multiplied by one billion; that is the power of one billion tourists,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, launching the campaign at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.

“Every single person who has traveled in 2012, whether on holiday or business, is part of the one billion and can make a real difference,” continued Mr. Rifai. “I hope everyone will join our campaign and help us spread the message that one billion tourists really do mean one billion opportunities, for economic growth, job creation and the future of our planet.” 

The campaign will culminate on 13 December when the most popular tip will be revealed and sent out to millions via social media. The date, 13 December, has been chosen as the symbolic arrival day of the one-billionth tourist. While it is impossible to know exactly when and where the one-billionth tourist will arrive, UNWTO forecasts point to December. The arrival of the one-billionth tourist will be celebrated by the UNWTO Secretary-General in Spain, home to UNWTO headquarters.

UNWTO is encouraging all countries and the entire tourism sector to spread the word about the campaign by becoming official campaign partners and hosting their own celebrations on 13 December, raising awareness of the important contribution of one billion tourists.

Three ways to get involved:
  1. Which tip will you commit to on your next trip? Vote now http://1billiontourists.unwto.org/
  1. Help us share the winning tip with millions. Join our Thunderclap campaign http://1billiontourists.unwto.org/
  1. Were you one of the one billion tourists to travel internationally in 2012? Send a photo of yourself on your trip to comm@unwto.org or by tweeting @UNWTO with #1billtourists and we’ll upload the best ones in our Faces of the One Billion Facebook album.  Don’t forget to include your name, where you’re from and where the picture was taken.

UNWTO Principal Media Officer: Marcelo Risi

Growth Markets and the Millennial Generation (Born 1980-1995)

It’s a Gen Y thing:
NTA is listening to the Millennial Generation
It’s a Gen Y thing: NTA is listening to the Millennial Generation
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Nov. 15, 2012) -
Members of the Millennial Generation shared their outlook on life, travel, and the tourism industry with the NTA Board of Directors this week, and the association’s leaders were listening. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, were born between 1980 and 1995 and, according to projections, will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

The impending generational shift is important for associations, whose members and leaders have been Baby Boomers, according to Lisa Simon, NTA president.

“As Boomers phase out of the workplace, associations will rely on Gen X and Gen Y,” said Simon, “And because young professionals engage differently, the NTA board knows it’s important to understand their needs in order to meet their expectations.”

The Millennials session, held Monday during a board meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, included a focus-group discussion and a presentation from board member Cathleen Johnson of Edelman, a global public relations firm whose research on Millennials has powerful implications for the travel and tourism industry, including the following:

- Millenials travel in groups but don’t think of it as “group travel;” they’re simply seeking shared experiences.

- Their travel is focused on how they will change the world; good works is a way of life for Millennials.

- Sustainability is not merely important to Millennials - it’s necessary.

“One of the most enlightening points is that Millennials like traveling in groups, and they expect value for their investment,” said Simon, “That means they want two of the most common and important ingredients that packaged travel has to offer: camaraderie and value.”

Millennials will be the topic of a presentation by Johnson at Travel Exchange, NTA’s annual convention to be held in concert with the United Motorcoach Association in Orlando, Florida, January 20 to 24. The seminar, “Pathway to Understanding the Millennial Generation,” will explore demographic distinctions and marketing strategies.

Also at Travel Exchange is the first meeting of a new group that encompasses the Millennial Generation: the NTA Young Professionals Town Hall will give younger members of the association an opportunity to network and discuss career development, generational marketing, and personal branding.

For more information on the board meeting discussion, see “The Millennial Mindset,” an NTA blog entry at http://dobigthingsblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/the-millennial-mindset/ .
For the full lineup of education at Travel Exchange, go to http://businessbuilder.ntaonline.com/convention/Education/SessionDescriptions.aspx .
For more information about Travel Exchange, including the schedule and “Stay & Play” options, visit: http://businessbuilder.ntaonline.com/convention/Home.aspx .

PHOTO: Pictured with NTA Chairman Jim Reddekopp Jr. and NTA President Lisa Simon Meeting are young professionals who discussed the Millennial Generation with the NTA Board of Directors: Abby Howard of Pennsylvania Association of Travel & Tourism, Alyssa Rader of Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, Nicole Sutton of American Music Theatre, Reddekopp, Simon, Sheila Contento of Crowne Plaza Reading, Kelsey Dixon of Heritage Hospitality and Jenny McConnell of Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

10 Great Vacations for Babies and Toddlers (by Nancy Schretter of Family Travel Network)

As I often blog about, family travel is one of the travel industry's top growth markets.  A leader in this industry and marketplace is Nancy Schretter, founder of the award-winning Family Travel Network. Below is one of Nancy's articles on best family vacations for babies and toddlers. To view the original article, click on link below.


10 Great Vacations for Babies and Toddlers

By Nancy Schretter, Family Travel Network (www.familytravelnetwork.com)

Parents of young children - get ready to travel. There are many fun family vacation options waiting for you and your kids. We've outlined ten of the best along with the resources you'll need to plan your getaway.

For great vacation values, families with young children should plan to travel during non-holiday periods in the fall and late spring. These are generally low seasons for most destinations, so the crowds are gone and bargains are plentiful. In addition, many resorts offer special packages and deals for families with little ones during these time periods.

In addition, if you're flying and don't want to tote a lot of gear, consider services such as Babies Travel Lite and Jet Set Babies. For tips on traveling with young children, take a look at these pointers on The Family Travel Network.

Beach Vacations

According to a recent travel agent survey, beaches are the most popular destination for family vacations. When traveling with babies and toddlers, however, it's important to pick a place that's small tot-friendly. Look for beach destinations that have calm waters, lots of clean sand for building sandcastles, and great amenities and attractions for families. The Family Travel Network reviews family beach regularly and provides a wealth of resources on this topic. Spots such as Fripp Island, South Carolina, Captiva Island, Florida and Kauai's Poipu Beach are great for small children because of their protected shallow ocean areas, tidal pools and gently lapping waves.

Many families and friends rent large vacation homes at the beach to save money and provide built-in playmates and babysitters. Check the Vacation Rental Managers AssociationHomeAway.com, VRBO, Redweek, and FlipKey for more information and options. Marriott Vacation Club also offers spacious villa accommodations in beach resort settings for families seeking kitchens and room to spread out. If you're looking for a deal on a last-minute beach getaway, check out PackLate.com.

Beach resorts are also catering to families of young children with special packages. For instance, Florida's Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort offers a free Baby Butler program, eliminating the need to pack bulky diapers and supplies. The resort also features a kid-friendly Tiki pool and a pristine white sand beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic also offers programs for babies and toddlers, including a vacation nanny option.


Cruise lines are catering to families with expansive indoor and outdoor play areas, children's programs, and a variety of fun-filled activities aboard their ships. These floating resorts are good vacation choices for families with babies and toddlers. Parents appreciate the value cruises offer and the fact that most vacation costs are included. The key, however, is to determine which cruise lines and ships offer the amenities that will best meet your family's needs.

It's important to note that there are minimum age restrictions on cruise ships. Children must be at least 6 months of age to cruise on Carnival, Costa, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. For Disney, babies must be at least 3 months old. Some lines require infants to be at least one year old for trans-ocean crossings and specific types of itineraries. Check with the cruise line or your travel agent.

The best cruise lines for families with young children are Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean. Disney Cruise Line is the acknowledged leader in cruise vacations for families with babies and toddlers. Their ships offer Flounder's Reef Nursery for children from 12 weeks to 36 months of age, large family-sized staterooms, and a free Oceaneer Club children's program for kids 3 and up. The ships feature Disney-themed kids pools and there's also a water play area for children who are still in diapers. Royal Caribbean also has a nursery available on their Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas ships.

Not every cruise line or ship offers all of these amenities. While Royal Caribbean has a small toddler pool for kids in diapers on their Freedom- and Oasis-class ships, Carnival Cruise Line does not. It's important to research what's available on each ship you're considering.

Theme Parks

Tot-friendly theme parks provide a fun, affordable way for families with little ones to make great vacation memories and spend time together. There's a wide variety of options to match every budget, from destination parks such as Disney and Legoland to smaller ones closer to home.

Walt Disney World is always high on parents' lists of family-friendly vacation and the parks cater to families with babies and toddlers. The parks' Baby Care Centers are perfect for families with little ones. The Centers offer restrooms with child-sized toilets, a nursing room, changing tables, a feeding area with high chairs and bottle warmers for wee ones, and much more. Stroller rentals are also available. The parks' rider swap policy, allowing family members with young children to ride attractions with minimal wait times, is very popular. For more good suggestions on visiting Walt Disney World with little ones, check out Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers by Lisa Battista.

Another popular park for families with babies and toddlers is Pennsylvania's Sesame Place. Parents often choose Sesame Place for their child's first theme park visit because it's based entirely on the Sesame Street television show and designed specifically for families with young children.

For tips on visiting a theme park with your kids, visit the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions website.

Ranch and Farm Vacations

What could be more fun than pony rides, feeding farm animals and playing outdoors? For many toddlers, that sounds like heaven. If your tot is one of these, head for a farm or ranch resort on your next vacation. Ranch resorts often feature a variety of activities in addition to pony rides, such a children's programs, kids pools and indoor waterparks, arts and crafts, babysitting, and a variety of outdoor activities. Petting zoos and other outdoor attractions can also be great for little ones.

New Hampshire's Inn at East Hill Farm is a popular choice for farm vacations. The Inn offers farm family weekends from September through June. These weekends are packed with recreation and farm activities for kids of all ages.

Rocking Horse Ranch has a comprehensive nursery program and a wide range of play options for little ones. Colorado's Snow Mountain Ranch is a favorite for family reunions. Other good choices for families with small children include Arkansas' Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Bluffdale Vacation Farm in Illinois, Ridin' Hy Ranch Resort in New York's Adirondacks, and Bar Lazy J Ranch in Colorado. For more information on a wide variety of approved dude ranch resorts, visit The Dude Ranchers' Association.

All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are one of the fastest growing segments of the vacation industry and are particularly popular with families. After all, it's comforting to know exactly how much your vacation is going to cost before you purchase it. In addition, some all-inclusive resorts offer the most extensive amenities for families with babies and toddlers. These include such services as Vacation Nannies, waterparks with special features for little ones, free children's programs, family suites with separate kids rooms, gourmet meal programs for babies and more.

At Jamaica's all-inclusive FDR Resorts, a vacation nanny is assigned to each family vacationing at their condominium-style properties and a wide range of children's activities are available. Beaches Resorts also offer certified nannies as part of their Parents in a Pinch program along with Sesame Street kids programs, family suites, Crayola Art Camps and more. Club Med offers a Baby Welcome Program and the Baby Club Med program for children ages 4 to 23 months at resorts in Florida, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and France. Petit Club Med for children 2-3 years old is also available. Almond Beach Village in Barbados is another great choice for families with babies and toddlers, offering nursery care for children ages 0-23 months and a mini-club for tots ages 2-4. SuperClubs' Breezes Resorts offer vacation options for families with young children as well. At Breezes Curacao, professional nannies staff the nursery for infants and toddlers up to 2 years old with Kids Club programs for older children. In Jamaica, Breezes Trelawny cares for children ages 6 months and up at their Kids Club.

With its Toddler & Baby inclusive program, the Azul Hotels by Karisma are also great choices for families with little ones - particularly the Azul Beach Hotel with its wide variety of baby gear. The Azulitos Kid's Club features a Fisher-Price educational play program and the resorts offer Gourmet Gerber, an all-inclusive meal program for babies. For more insights on great all-inclusives for babies and toddlers, visit Vacation Kids.  

Indoor Water Parks

Kids love water, so it's no surprise that hotels and resorts with waterparks are incredibly popular with families. According to a study by Hotel Waterpark Resort Research and Consulting, the number of indoor waterpark resorts grew by more than 225% during a recent five-year period and more are under construction. Parents love the self-contained nature of these indoor waterparks and there are many areas where babies and toddlers can splash around safely.

The country's largest chain of indoor waterpark resorts Great Wolf Lodge, offers a number of amenities that appeal to families with young children including a Club Paw Pool, story time, an evening clock tower show, free life jackets, and other activities. KeyLime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois, has many attractions for little ones including Lil' Limers, a play pond area just for small children, stories and entertainment by the Leapin' Lizards staff, and more. Other popular waterpark resorts include Kalahari Resorts, CoCo Key Water Resorts and Castaway Bay.

Mountain Resorts

Many families used to think of mountain resorts solely for snow fun, but not any more. Many of these vacation spots offer four seasons of family fun as well as special amenities for their youngest guests. During the summer and fall months, mountain resorts can offer incredible values. In addition, these resorts are a self-contained vacation destination where everything is within easy reach.

Vermont's Smugglers' Notch is perennially named as one of the nation's top mountain resorts for families. The Smugglers' Notch Treasures child care center cares for children as young as six weeks of age year-round and a wide variety of kids' and family-oriented programs are offered at the resort. Utah's Deer Valley Resort is another family favorite with excellent programs for young children.

Many ski resorts offer child care for infants and toddlers during the winter months. Dan Sherman of Ski.com, a good resource for planning mountain vacations, also suggests such resorts as Aspen/Snowmass, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Steamboat for families with little ones.

Nature Places

Even the smallest children are thrilled by nature. Take your little ones to a place where wildlife is abundant, such as Assateague Island, Virginia or Sanibel Island, Florida. Assateague Island National Seashore features over 37 miles of beaches and more than 300 wild ponies roam the area. The much loved children's book, Misty of Chincoteague, chronicles the true story of a pony that was born here.

With its lovely white sand beaches and abundant shells, Sanibel Island is also a great destination for families with small children. In addition, two-thirds of the island is set aside as a nature preserve. Children of all ages are thrilled by everyday sights of roseate spoonbills, eagles, armadillos, and dolphins. Sanibel is also a fun for bike riders, and bike and tot trailers are readily available from many bike rental shops.

Lake Shores

With their calm waters and multitude of attractions for families, lake destinations are also wonderful choices for fun with the little ones. Kids can enjoy picnics, collecting shells, playing on the beach, learning how to fish, and wading in the shallow waters.

The Family Travel Network provides detailed information on 15 of the best lake vacation destinations for families. Some favorites include Maryland's Deep Creek Lake, Georgia's Lake Lanier, Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Ohio's Lake Erie Shores.

Lake Tahoe is another popular spot year-round for families with little ones. The Kidszone Museum in Truckee provides fun activities for infants and toddlers and lake cruises are also entertaining. During the winter months, sleigh rides and dog sledding provide lots of excitement.

For a wonderful all-inclusive lake getaway, take a look at the all-inclusive Tyler Place Family Resort. The resort is fabulous for families and caters particularly well to parents of infants and toddlers. The Tyler Place provides an Infant & Toddler program as well as caregivers and Parents' Helpers to give parents time alone as well as time together as a family.

City Destinations

Cities are loaded with attractions for families with babies and toddlers, such as zoos, aquariums, children's museums and more. In addition, there are so many tot-friendly hotels and restaurants from which to choose.

Cities such as Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Florida and San Diego, California are particularly popular. Washington's museums are free of charge and feature kid-captivating displays such as the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History's dinosaur exhibits and the Air and Space Museum's spacecraft and planes. San Diego is filled with tot-pleasing attractions such as Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Balboa Park, and lovely Coronado Beach.

When choosing lodging, look for all-suites properties such as Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites that offer kitchens and places to relax while the children are sleeping. City-based destination resorts with lots of attractions, such as Gaylord Hotels, can also be a good bet.

©Copyright 2010. The Beacon Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.familytravelnetwork.com/

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visionary Story of a Sports Travel Entrepreneur

I had the honor and privilege this past week of speaking with the president and founder of The Sports Traveler, Anbritt Stengele.  Talk about a visionary entrepreneur with a fascinating idea in an exciting industry!  The story below exemplifies one of the great "growth markets" of today's tourism industry: Sports Travel.

* View original story at http://www.sportstraveler.net/pages/sports_traveler_history/658.php
* View the Sports Traveler Blog at http://www.sportstraveler.net/blog/

Sports Traveler History

It all started with a trip to a Dallas Cowboys game...Sports Traveler was founded in 2000 by Anbritt Stengele (current President). Ms. Stengele, a former competitive and professional figure skater, traveled extensively throughout the United States throughout her career. Later she became a coach and trained dozens of figure skating hopefuls in competitive programs in both Michigan and the Chicago area.

It was in late 1999 that Ms. Stengele, while at a national skating event in Dallas, Texas, attended a Dallas Cowboys football game at Texas Stadium. An avid Cowboys fan, she returned home and went on the Internet to search for a football package to see the Cowboys again when they were to play the Indianapolis Colts...

"I set out on a search for a hotel package with good seats--but couldn't find one. After a very long search on the Web and many long distance phone calls, I gave up only to learn later that there was a hotel across the street from the stadium that had a great package. So I said to myself--there should be a Web site just for fans like me searching for sports travel packages."
(Source: MyComputer.com interview Dec. 2000)

Ms. Stengele created the first Sports Traveler website herself for football travel packages and tickets. The site quickly took off and was voted Website of the Week by MyComputer.com in December of 2000. In 2001, she developed the current Sports Traveler website to include all major sporting events for all types of fans. The network has now become the single largest source for sports travel on the internet covering sports travel options for virtually every sporting event worldwide. Key new additions to the company have followed including corporate and group travel as well as Sports Traveler VIP for luxury and celebrity clients.

In 2006, while attending the FIFA World Cup, Ms. Stengele launched Sports Traveler Radio - a podcast radio program that gives live on-the-scene reporting about sporting events for travelers. Sports Traveler Radio, or STR as it has become to be known, has since covered dozens of sporting events from the sports traveler perspective. The program is hosted by professional radio personalities and includes interviews on location from the sporting events host cities as well as special features and segments devoted to fan travel.

In 2009, Ms. Stengele along with co-writer and International Sports Writer Lydia Rypcinski released the book, Sports Traveler Chicago, a sports fans guide to the Chicagoland area. The tour book covers everything travelers will need when planning their game day experience in the Windy City. Sports Traveler Chicago was awarded the 2010 Illinois Woman’s Press Association Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest for Best Non-Fiction in the general category and was also the winner of the 2010 National Federation of Press Women Communication Contest for Best Non-Fiction.

Sports Traveler and Ms. Stengele has been featured numerous times on XM Satellite Radio as well as on ABC Radio and Fox Television insight and viewpoints on sports travel and the sporting event ticket industry. Sports Traveler has also been featured in the travel sections of the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, The Globe and Mail (Canada), the New London Day, the Naples Daily News, the Richmond Times Dispatch and the San Diego Union-Tribune as well as Best Life, Men's Journal, Travel Age West, and Crain's Chicago Business magazines. She also has a blog highlighting her frequent travels at http://anbritt.wordpress.com/.

Ms. Stengele currently resides in her home town of Chicago and travels often to see her favorite sports teams play. She is a competitive tennis player and enjoys speaking to children at local schools and universities on the topics of becoming an entrepreneur and her motto 'Live the Life You Imagine'.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking for an Agritourism Network of Tour Operators? If yes - discover ATOI

I recently blogged on the topic of Agritourism.  In the post we discussed "what is agritourism" which also included providing a couple of definitions.

In today's post I'd like to highlight an organization you should know about, especially if you're involved or interested in agritourism.  And that organization is: AGRICULTURAL TOUR OPERATORS INTERNATIONAL (ATOI).

The worldwide network of ATOI is comprised of tour operators, receceptive operators and ground operators who offer "qualify tailor-made farm and site tours, conferences and events in the agribusiness sector."

To learn more about ATOI visit their official website as well as review their summary info below.

ATOI Official Website:

Who is ATOI?
Agricultural Tour Operators International is a group of professional tour operators with agribusiness expertise offering of agricultural tours, technical programs, and conferences. Family-run or commercial operations, crops or livestock, cultural or geographical knowledge - ATOI members can provide expert advice and services in the understanding and experience of the agricultural industry.

ATOI members look after their guests, with every customised guided tour or event being carefully prepared, organised and run efficiently. Our members take the stress out of organising agribusiness visits by making sure you and your group have everything you need.

Tour operators in ATOI have agribusiness expertise, and adapt guided tours to give guests access to the specialist information they need. Multilingual, knowledgeable guides lead groups and ATOI members can also organise access to specific contacts or sector-professionals in their country.

Agricultural Tour Operators International's members have been organising agribusiness visits in over 30 countries for over a decade. Many of our members have had a lifetime's experience in agriculture: knowledge and enthusiasm that they put to good use in making every trip informative and interesting.