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Monday, December 30, 2013

Arrangements under way for Pope visit to Jordan

Amman - A Vatican official has said that arrangements are being made for a visit by Pope Francis to the holy lands next year, which will start from Jordan.

Following a meeting with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman, Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said that during his August visit to the Vatican, His Majesty King Abdullah invited the pontiff to visit the Kingdom. He said "specific arrangements" are currently being looked into. It is expected that the visit will be next year and the Pope's visit to the holy lands will start from Jordan, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. Judeh and the Vatican's top diplomat reviewed the latest regional conditions and issues of joint concern during their meeting, the agency said.

Judeh said the meeting was in follow-up of the "important visit" by King Abdullah to the Vatican in August, his meeting with Pope Francis and the talks he held with the pontiff. At his meeting with Vatican's visiting foreign minister, Judeh stressed the Kingdom's continued commitment to strengthening relations with the Vatican in a manner that fosters the values of love and harmony between the nations and achieves peace and stability for the people and the countries of the Middle East.

Discussions focused on political developments in the region, the Middle East peace process and Jordan's position which asserts the need for establishing an independent viable and sovereign Palestinian state that lives in peace and security with its neighbours.

Judeh explained that Jordan is a "model of tolerance and co-existence" between the Christian and Muslim people, highlighting King Abdullah's custodianship of Christian and Islamic sites and his role in safeguarding them and protecting the Christian residents of Jerusalem.

Stressing the strong diplomatic relations between Jordan and the Vatican, Mamberti underlined the importance of Jordan as a holy land and a country that respects religious pluralism, unity and harmony among all its people, not only to create peace in the Arab region but also in the Middle East as a whole.  
Source: The Jordan Times  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Travel Exchange ’14 Attracting More Buyers


More buyers are heading to Los Angeles for NTA's annual gathering, Travel Exchange, held Feb. 16-20 in conjunction with the United Motorcoach Association's Motorcoach EXPO. 
Registration for tour operator companies is pacing ahead of Travel Exchange '13, and this year NTA is welcoming a new type of buyer to the event: For the first time, the association is inviting travel agents to meet with tour operators and destination representatives.

"We know that having more buyers attracts more sellers, so the addition of travel agents—plus more operators—will make for a more robust business environment in L.A.," said NTA Chairman and CEO Mark Hoffmann, CTP. "We can expect a West Coast windfall for our members at Travel Exchange."

Along with Travel Exchange's business appointments, delegates can profit from the event's educational focus on niche markets. NTA will again host its popular leadership forums, where experts and members share strategies for specific travel types: adventure, faith and family travel. In education seminars, members will gain insights about markets that include China, Canada, sports travel, LGBT and agritourism, along with business strategies for marketing, media and management. Additional education is available to NTA members through sessions offered by UMA.
The first combined show for NTA and UMA was in January in Orlando, Fla. Along with adding even more buyers to Travel Exchange, UMA also attracts suppliers whose products and services engage members of both associations. And attendees can expect to see more suppliers at Travel Exchange '14, according to Victor Parra, UMA president and CEO.

"We can't believe how many first-time suppliers we will have in L.A., where exhibit space is about 90 percent sold out already," Parra said. "It's a nice feeling to know that word of the great show we had in Orlando has gotten around, and so many new suppliers want to be with us in 2014."
NTA and UMA will share the show floor, allowing buyers and sellers from both associations to make new connections and generate new partnerships. Delegates can also connect during luncheons, social events and sightseeing excursions. It's a productive environment for business, said Hoffmann.

"I won't say it's the perfect storm, because we're getting together in sunny Los Angeles," Hoffmann said. "But it's an ideal gathering of people, product and opportunities."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do you do business in adventure travel or want to enter this growing market?

Then here’s why you can’t miss Travel Exchange ’14—the one industry show that puts the full spectrum of North American Travel buyers and sellers on the same floor.

By registering for Travel Exchange, Feb. 16–20, in Los Angeles, you can: 

  • Participate in the Active/Adventure Travel Leaders Forum with other professionals who actively are engaged in adventure-themed trips.
  • Hear keynote speaker Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures and global leader in social entrepreneurship, and learn adventure market trends and demographic insights.
  • Attend seminars that are focused on risk management, sustainability, and social marketing integration and influence.
  • Connect with tour suppliers and destination representatives—from local CVBs, states and provinces, and more than 30 countries worldwide—in the Destination Pavilion to build dynamic itineraries right on the spot. 

You also can take advantage of the city’s proximity to some of America’s top national parks that offer a range of soft- and hard-adventure product: 

  • Joshua Tree National Park (140 miles)
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (250 miles)
  • Death Valley National Park (290 miles)
  • Yosemite National Park (315 miles) 

Travel Exchange is the place to discover new adventures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for your clients. Hear from Travel Oregon's Lisa Itel on why she feels Travel Exchange is THE show to attend in 2014, and click here to see the full schedule and to register today!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

NTA’s Simon: We’re Welcoming Travel Agents (by Harvey Chipkin/Travel Market Report)

Author: Harvey Chipkin
Article link:

NTA president Lisa Simon is stepping down after a seven-year tenure. One of the organization’s last actions under her leadership was its recent invitation to travel agents—a first—to participate in its annual Travel Exchange. This year’s event will be held Feb. 16 to 20 in Los Angeles.

Simon leaves behind an organization that, among its other accomplishments, has taken the initiative in developing the burgeoning inbound China travel market to the U.S.

Simon talked with Travel Market Report about the move to include travel agents, its efforts in the China market and trends in the tour operator segment.

Why did NTA decide to invite travel agents to its 2014 Travel Exchange?
Simon: Half of our members work with agents and there has been discussion about inviting them for years. It was finally decided that it is a good idea on a number of fronts. Those who already work with agents will have access to them. Those who don’t currently work with agents will benefit from networking with them and potentially developing relationships.

Ideally, the number of members who work with agents will grow. In addition, our suppliers and destination management organizations always like to see more buyers – and agents are buyers.

What’s in it for the agents?
Simon: It gives them an opportunity to meet not only with tour operators but with suppliers and destinations. We see a special opportunity in the special interest market education we have at the conference.
While they can stay for the entire week, we have specifically invited agents for a two-day program aimed at them which focuses heavily on special interest travelers.

There will also be special appointment sessions with tour operators. These are not one-on-one sessions but roundtables with one or two tour operators meeting with buyers. And even without an appointment agents can meet with suppliers on the floor – and network with everyone at social events.

What’s been the response from agents so far?
Simon: We have had a lot of interest and are expecting some registrants closer to the conference. We think it will be a regional situation with agents who are nearby attending. We have members in the Los Angeles area working with agent groups to promote the conference.
And the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN) are promoting our travel agent program at Travel Exchange.

Does NTA work with agents in other ways?
Simon: Yes, we have partnered with ASTA on reaching out to the Hispanic market. We also have the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) as a strategic partner.

Does this invitation to agents signal a commitment to the agency community?
Simon: Yes, we are very bullish on agents. It’s an important relationship on several fronts. The travel agent is the frontline distribution point that tour operators can count on to promote the idea of tours to their customers.
Most of the tour operators who don’t work with agents are smaller ones and we think they can benefit from that relationship as well. Also, while there is no current membership category for agents, we think that may happen at some point.

What do you consider NTA’s major accomplishments during your tenure?
Simon: We did the first Travel Exchange earlier this year that co-located our event with the United Motorcoach Association. The energy on the floor was really exciting. This year the conference will have lots of education, panel discussions and market-specific forums as well as social events.

What about your efforts in the China inbound market?
Simon: This is a huge program for us and probably what I’m most proud of. We are the only organization that approves tour operators who are able to do business with Chinese tour operators sending travelers to the U.S. Our participation was critical to the memo of understanding between China and the U.S. government.

China told the U.S. government that it had to have a list of qualified tour operators and the government said it couldn’t do that, but we agreed to do it.
We qualify operators based on their language capabilities, quality assurance, professional guides and whatever else the Chinese asked for. We then send our list, which now includes 144 qualified operators, to the Chinese tourism authorities.

What trends do you see in the tour operator community?
Simon: Technology is changing the way people do business and tour operators will continue to become better at online marketing and selling. Also, globalization is important. Even if you’re an operator with a regional constituency, you are dealing with a global marketplace.

Everyone has a bucket list and consumers want to travel everywhere. Tour operators have to be able to accommodate them – either themselves or through partners. That’s why we introduced international members in 2003 and now have members from 44 countries.

Has NTA done anything relating to the millennial market?
Simon: Millennials will have a huge impact on the travel product. We have had a task force on that for a couple of years and held our first Young Professionals Town Hall at our Travel Exchange in January.

Next year we will do that again as well as an Ask the Young Professionals sessions where a panel of millennials will discuss their preferences. We will have a similar session called Ask the Veterans with veteran members sharing their experiences.

What about NTA’s future?
Simon: It’s going in the right direction with its focus educationally and programmatically on special interest groups. Special interest will be the way to keep the tour product alive and relevant. People like to travel with like-minded people and experiential travel has never been more important.

What are your personal plans? Will you be staying in the industry?
Simon: I will likely stay in tourism, although I have not finalized any plans. I want to take some time to make sure I end up in the right place. I have been with NTA for the better part of my professional life and I love the organization, but it’s time for me to move on. It’s a great opportunity for the association to get in new leadership and new perspectives on moving forward during a time of rapid change.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finding the Family Travel Niche: Opportunity to Exploit the Failings of Google

Here's a link to a very fascinating, insightful article by Canadian Travel Press on the weaknesses that currently exist in online travel in relation to the family travel market. 

My favorite part of the article is the last 2 paragraphs, which talks about the need for an "Amazon approach" in regards to online travel (i.e. storing your current and previous wants and likes of travel).  Wow - I personally never thought before about this golden opportunity and weakness  currently existing, but I completely agree with it.

Article link: