SOURCE: TravelPulse


The ubiquity of technology combined with the lasting impact of the pandemic has formed a perfect storm of confusion for consumers – which is why it’s absolutely crucial that they book their trips with travel advisors.

“Living in a world where endless information is at our fingertips, planning a vacation has gone from being independent and booking it online yourself, to ‘I am so overwhelmed with all of the options out there,’” said JoAnne Weeks, vacation division director at Acendas Travel.

“We are finding even the savviest travelers are now seeking out a travel advisor. What consumers are coming to realize is what they see online is not as unsettling as what they don’t see. That’s where a travel advisor comes in.”

Added Churchill & Turen Managing Director Richard Turen: “You cannot use the Internet to find the world’s top-rated cruise line. You cannot use the Internet to obtain a professionally written hotel inspection report. You cannot find a caring personal travel health advocate on Twitter. For that and so much more you need a travel truthteller who represents you and you alone.”

Turen said he likes to think of a great travel advisor as a trusted physician who knows their clients well.

“The trip ‘diagnosis and recommendation’ should never be placed in the hands of a commissioned call center robot working out of Miami, Mumbai or Manila.”

Then there are the issues of time.

“Clients call us frustrated that they have long hold times,” Elite Travel Management Group CEO Tammy Levent said while being on hold for two hours with a cruise line.

“I have so many people calling me saying, ‘I booked online and need to change my ticket,’” she said.

“If it’s an airline issue, the client has to wait on hold for hours at a time, and then there’s the change fee for third-party bookings. So, at the end of the day, it costs clients both money and time.”

“There have been so many last-minute changes due to COVID and our clients were spared the endless hours on the phones with the airlines or hoteliers,” said VIP Vacations President Jennifer Doncsecz. “Having a travel advisor on speed dial is the best travel hack out there!”

There are also the myriad issues relating to protocols, travel advisories and red tape stemming from the pandemic.

“I can’t tell you how many times in the past year VIP Vacations has helped our clients with getting their passports or having to walk them off the ledge when they were confused with online forms that needed to be completed before arrival in a destination,” Doncsecz said.

“We thoroughly detail travel insurance options to meet their very specific needs so they protect their investment.”

For his part, Turen believes it would be helpful for every advisor to keep a carefully designed list of the multiple functions they perform – virtually all of them complimentary.

“We help interpret dreams, we operationalize them and then we become advocates of strength for the clients who entrust the best moments of their lives to our care,” he said.

“In defining what we do we must explain to clients that if they book directly with a supplier call center they are likely entitled to a refund of the entire travel advisor’s commission.

“If we don’t do this, suppliers will continue this massive consumer rip-off in which naive consumers who do not use a professional travel advisor are charged the advisor commission anyway.

“Travelers deserve to be covered by consumer protection laws.”

In the final analysis, the value of using travel advisors boils down to their formidable knowledge and experience.

“The value of providing first-hand destination experience, having personal relationships with preferred vendors – which goes a very long way in today’s world of travel challenges – and being up to date with any and all COVID requirements is priceless,” said Weeks.

“We’ve been a trusted resource long before Google and we know the correct answers,” said Sarah Kline, president of Time for Travel.

“I don’t do my own taxes, cut my own hair or change my oil. I use someone who specializes in these services who I trust.

“Without a travel agent, you are on your own!”

While its completely understandable that so many people are concerned about traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, I feel it’s really important to put everything in perspective. Even though there’s no one-size-fits all answer to this current predicament that’s literally affecting the entire world now, using a common sense approach is essential, as it’s too easy for some to let fear and/or their emotions get in the way of their ability to think clearly during this particular time in traveling history.

I want everyone to know that there are still many places they can travel to, as many places are still considered to be safe. So for those who want or need to travel at this time, it’s really just a matter of figuring out what places are still safe to travel to. This requires travelers to keep on top of all travel news related to the virus, making it essential that they educate themselves well. This is simple to do, as those who still want to go on with their travel plans at this time just need to keep on top of all travel advisories, as they can change at any given moment.

How to Protect Oneself

There are a few things travelers can do to protect themselves, as it’s necessary to avoid being exposed to the virus in order to prevent one from getting ill. The best ways travelers can protect themselves from getting the virus is to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, not touch their face, wear a mask if it makes them feel safer, and maintain at least 3 feet in between them and anyone who is exhibiting any signs of the virus, like coughing and sneezing.

The CDC has posted the following questions for travelers, which will help them make a final decision on whether or not they should travel during this outbreak.

  • Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?
  • Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?
  • Are you or your travel companion(s) at higher risk of severe illness if you do get COVID-19?
  • Do you have a plan for taking time off from work or school, in case you get exposed to, or are sick with, COVID-19?
  • Do you live with someone who is older or has a severe chronic health condition?
  • Is COVID-19 spreading where you live?

Important Coronavirus Facts

Because I feel it’s so important for travelers to understand everything they need to know at this time, I thought it would be beneficial to make a list of facts to help travelers determine what they should do regarding traveling at this particular time. While all travel-related facilities are indeed taking great measures to reduce the risk of anyone getting diagnosed with the virus, it’s still necessary for all travelers to take matters into their own hands by doing everything possible to protect themselves from the virus, as there is no vaccine as of yet.

The list of facts below are beneficial for any traveler, as there’s so much information on the Internet and on the news nowadays, it can be difficult for travelers to understand what is fact and what is fiction.


  • FACT: The State Department has issued a Global Level 3 health advisory, which means that those who live within the United States are encouraged to reconsider any travels to other countries that have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. A Global Level 4 advisory, which has not happened yet, is the level that prevents travelers from taking part in any type of travel. So traveling is still an option.


  • FACT: Transportation facilities are taking extreme measures to clean high-touch areas often throughout the day, minimizing the risk of someone getting the virus when traveling by bus, train and airplane. Special attention is also being placed on cleaning areas where staff work, like check-in counters. They have also provided travelers with more hand sanitizing locations, encouraging travelers to use them often.


  • FACT: It’s an option for travelers to check in for their transportation travels using their cell phone. This is a good idea, as it means they don’t have to touch any self-service kiosks in order to check in for their reservation. And instead of handing over their phone to one of the agents or baggage handlers for identification purposes, they can simply hold on to their phone and show them the information.


  • FACT: Hotels are also responding to the outbreak, as they’re increasing the frequency of how often the clean any public areas. They’re also training employees on new ways to clean, helping to minimize the chances of any hotel guests being diagnosed. This includes cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting all areas of a hotel, including any food areas.

 Bottom Line

It’s up to travelers whether or not they want to travel during this current outbreak. The above facts should help travelers make the right decision, as these factual pieces of information are in place in order to help travelers make the right decision. All travelers are definitely encouraged to use a common sense approach when making their decisions, vs. letting their fear or emotions take over. If the decision to travel has been made, then it’s essential for all travelers to buy a travel insurance policy.

Elite Travel Management Group, Inc

Hunting ranches are a popular travel destination for hunters, or anyone else who wants to hunt exotic animals for trophy reasons. While many people associate the term exotic animals with animals that are not to be hunted, in fact the term simply refers to a species of animal that’s not indigenous to a certain area. This means a variety of exotic animals can be hunted nowadays, with many hunting ranches available in the United States.

Top 5 Hunting Destinations in the USA for Exotic Animals

There are a few different reasons why hunters will choose to visit a hunting ranch, Two of the more common reasons is because they want to hunt a young female animal for the purpose of harvesting their meat, and because they want to hunt an older animal so they can display its head as a wall trophy.

The list below includes five of the more popular exotic animal hunting destinations located in the United States.

1. Texas = 5-Star Outfitters. This hunting ranch places a lot of emphasis on providing hunters with a safe environment. They offer guided hunts, with most hunters choosing this particular ranch because they’re looking for trophy animals. Exotic animals that can be hunted at this location include elk, ram, deer, turkey, and zebra. Accommodations include a hunting lodge and two cabins.

 2. New Mexico = Kiowa Hunting Service, Inc. This hunting ranch has been in business for more than 30 years and is a full service hunting organization. The private lands they manage allows hunters plenty of opportunities to hunt for a variety of exotic animals, including elk, mule deer, Coues deer, antelope, Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, and turkey.

 3. Maine = OMM Outfitters. This hunting ranch strives to educate, entertain, and it always be accommodating for hunters who are looking for an extraordinary outdoor hunting adventure. They have a respect for the wildlife on their land, as well as the environment they live in. Exotic animals that can be hunted at this ranch include moose, bears, coyotes, turkeys, geese and upland birds. Glamping is available.

 4. Florida = Outwest Farms, Inc. This hunting farm has been in business for almost 20 years and is one that specializes in offering hunters the ability to hunt hogs and alligators. Hog hunting and alligator hunting is available during every month of the year, which means hunters who want to go on a wild boar hunt or an alligator hunt can do so by signing up for one of the four hunting adventures they offer.

 5. Ohio = Double D Ranch. This hunting ranch is located in Ohio’s alpine wilderness, and tends to be an option for more serious hunters. This is due to the rugged location, which makes it more difficult to hunt exotic animals, and is exactly what many hunters are looking for – a challenge. The ranch is open year round and offers hunters the ability to hunt deer, ram, antelope, goat, elk, sheep and wild boar.

Elite Travel Management Group, Inc

Flying the Feverish Skies

by Tammy


Is Responsible Travel Even Remotely Possible during the Coronavirus Emergency?

Lori Levinson was just a few weeks away from a trip to Vietnam and Japan, a vacation that had been months in the planning, when COVID-19, an illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus, went from a remote scare halfway across the world to a global public health emergency. Levinson, an attorney based in Housatonic, was scheduled to travel to southern Vietnam to see her son and continue on for a family trip to Japan. But with infection rates rising by the day, she made the call to cancel.

It’s a difficult decision, and one more people are weighing as the coronavirus has caused illness in nearly 92,000 people and claimed the lives of about 3,000, most in mainland China. The United States is still at low risk, with just over 100 confirmed cases, most of those in travelers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was detained in Yokohama, Japan (many are still in hospital or military-base quarantine). There have also been six deaths, all in Washington State. In our region, four cases have been reported: one each in New York and New Hampshire, and two apiece in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Globally, however, COVID-19 is approaching pandemic levels, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. That doesn’t mean we should rush to the phones to cancel vacations planned for the summer, or trips to low-risk areas. But, says Dr. Everett Lamm, Chief Medical Officer of Community Health Programs in Great Barrington, travel restrictions—whether self- or government-imposed—do help contain the spread. “It’s an ounce of prevention in terms of people’s travel being restricted, because we’re not quite sure how many people are afflicted right now.”

Although there’s been an onslaught of media attention on coronavirus over the past couple of weeks, the seasonal flu, as Lamm points out, has actually been more deadly than this coronavirus. Between October 2019 and now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 310,000–560,000 hospitalizations for the flu, and 18,000–46,000 flu deaths—rates much higher than those logged over most of the past decade. But because SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, seems to spread more easily than the seasonal flu, there’s cause for caution.

By now, most of us know that SARS-CoV-2 spreads via droplets, such as from coughing and sneezing, making travel in confined spaces for prolonged periods—as on that Diamond Princess cruise ship—among the least desirable situations. (Lots of medical professionals have already said it, but we’ll repeat it here: surgical masks won’t prevent you from catching the virus. The cheap, disposable paper kind are generally not made to filter pathogens, and stockpiling them creates a supply issue for medical facilities that actually need them.)

While a person who isn’t symptomatic can hardly be faulted for traveling while infected, there are increasing numbers of people who choose to travel while symptomatic, especially on planes — potentially mistaking illnesses such as COVID-19  for the common cold. (Raise your hand if you’ve been the lucky middle-seater on a plane with a pair of hacking, sniffling neighbors.) Why the increase?

It’s primarily thanks to airline change fees, which can be upwards of $200 for a single reservation. Couple that with travelers who fear not being compensated for sick time by their employers, or those who just want to get home to relieve the baby- or pet-sitter, and the financial burden multiplies.

If sustainable travel is an oxymoron, is “healthy travel” impossible during a global health emergency? And who, ultimately, is responsible: the traveler or the airline, hotel, or tourism company?

The answer is complicated, and it’s inextricably tied to our increasingly global economy. Fiona Lally, President of Rasenna Consulting Inc. in New Lebanon, is a specialist in travel risk management. She explains, “We’re looking at massive losses around the world right now for the travel industry. About one in eight Americans have stopped long-distance travel because they don’t know what will happen in spring and summer.”

Many of those destinations, especially those that are dependent on tourism, are feeling the pinch. The answer, says Lally, isn’t simply staying home. “One of the best things we can do for the global economy is to keep going, to whatever extent we feel is safe,” she says. “Then take those commonsense approaches—handwashing, avoiding contact with those who are ill, not borrowing someone else’s cell phone, taking care to open doorknobs with a paper towel.”

For Levinson, the decision to cancel her travel plans was based not on catching COVID-19. “The primary motivating factor was my fear that while I’m away, there may be some sort of border shut-down, and I might be detained there or even when I come back to the U.S.,” she says.

She has since tried to make contact with Japan Airlines and Delta Airlines, the two carriers of her flights. “With Japan Airlines, you can’t get through to them because everyone is calling. I got Delta’s recorded line and left a message. They said they’d call back this morning,” she says.

Levinson believes airlines should allow for penalty-free changes or cancellations for such events—and some, like American, Jetblue, and Alaska, as well as train operator Amtrak—are beginning to offer change waivers. But when asked about her chances of reimbursement or a change waiver, Levinson says, “I’m not overly optimistic.”

Tammy Levent, president and CEO of Elite Travel in Palm Harbor, Florida, has a different perspective. She says, “Your responsibility as a traveler is to know who you’re booking with. Know what they cover and what they don’t, and never book nonrefundable trips. If you book online, you’ll have no one to fall back on to ask questions.”

She recommends using a travel agent, who can help you not only create your itinerary, but also purchase travel insurance. There are several levels of coverage, but Levent’s top choice is “cancel for any reason” insurance, which, as the name implies, allows you to nix your trip for anything from a hangnail to a flat tire and recoup up to 100 percent of the cost.

The sticky part: it can cost as much as $120 per person. Many travelers just don’t have the extra cash.

The next-best option, Levent says, is to wait. “Watch what the CDC is saying,” she says. “If they say they’re going to shut down the border of a country, then the airlines and hoteliers have to comply with what’s dictated to them. Right now, the CDC has an alert out until March 15. So if you’re scheduled to travel on March 16, you can’t just cancel without penalty. But we’re seeing, for example, Delta give certain waivers for changes that fall within the advisory period. Wait until those alerts have been issued, and if your trip falls within them, you’re more likely to be able to move your trip date without having to pay extra.”

SOURCE: Travel Pulse

As news of the coronavirus continues to spread exponentially, travelers are starting to wonder if they should change travel plans or even cancel trips.

Cruise lines are making headlines as ships become stranded and airlines are altering service due to the spread of the virus. But as media reports compound and the stock market tanks, is it all just hype or should travelers be concerned?

The answer, as it usually is, is somewhere in between.

“[Coronavirus] is a global crisis that demands a creative approach,” said Dominic Fedee, St. Lucia tourism minister and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). “We’ve got to make sure the health agencies, the cruise lines, and the organizations such as CTO and CHTA (the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Assn.), all hold hands and work together to ensure that we are singing from the same hymn sheet and we have the same direction. It has to be a coordinated approach.”

Fedee is correct that there needs to be a coordinated approach to successfully contain the outbreak, not only for the Caribbean but globally.

For the moment, however, travelers are concerned about traveling but are not canceling trips.

“Overall, we are seeing strong demand for both travel and for our travel insurance products,” said Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications for Allianz Global Assistance. “I think that consumers are still eager to travel, but are seeking destinations where coronavirus is not currently a concern.”

Durazo noted that call volume at Allianz is up 50 percent right now.

Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel and founder of TASK, has not had a cancellation yet.

“[Clients] are calling but I’m on the phone with every single one of them. Not one has cancelled yet,” said Levent. “We are still booking new clients.”

A good indicator that it is safe to travel is that travel advisors are taking their own trips.

“I’m going to Italy with my group of 12 in June,” said Levent. “I leave for Chicago next week and then Houston and Dallas.”

Jason Coleman, the owner of Jason Coleman, Inc., is also not canceling any travel plans, but he is making some changes.

“I’m traveling like crazy but dealing with changing plans,” said Coleman. “I’m booked to Singapore and Angkor Wat in May. My flight was connecting in Shanghai, but I changed that to avoid China.”

Turning to a travel advisor to make travel plans is one of the best ways to have a successful vacation experience during a health crisis such as coronavirus.

“The world is a big place and there are still plenty of destinations to visit that haven’t been impacted by the Coronavirus,” said Durazo. “Travel advisors can be a great resource when looking for a destination that checks all of the boxes on a traveler’s wish list. We suggest that travelers who may be nervous about booking a trip talk first to their travel advisor or their travel supplier to find a trip that everyone can look forward to.”

It’s also always good to protect the investment that you make in your vacations.

“While there is certainly a lot of media attention being focused on the Coronavirus, the chances of having to cancel a trip because one of the kids has the flu should be a much bigger concern for most travelers,” Durazo pointed out. “Travel insurance can protect pre-paid trip deposits when a trip has to be canceled for an illness or injury or another reason covered by the policy. While we’re available 24/7 to help our customers, not a single one of our customers has contracted the coronavirus.”

The coronavirus is spreading, however, traveling to a destination that is prepared and taking the right precautions can make all the difference. The Caribbean is setting an excellent example.

“We’re getting constant advice from the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization and a lot of our respective countries are dealing with CARPHA (the Caribbean Public Health Agency),” said Fedee. “So we’re getting the very best expert advice.

“I think this is a case where health must take the lead and tourism must follow,” Fedee continued. “The health and safety of our citizens, our customers and humanity, in general, come first as we approach this crisis. Our safety is bigger than any individual cruise call or airline flight. This is a global issue that requires a global approach.”

New Zealand: From Glaciers to Beaches

by JuJuB

Thinking about taking your next vacation in New Zealand? There are many destinations to explore when in New Zealand, making it a good idea for travelers to find out more about this sovereign island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean before making any final plans.

New Zealand

New Zealand destinations include visiting its North Island, South Island, and/or other 3 islands. While vacationers can expect the scenery and landscape to be absolutely gorgeous in all locations, each destination comes with its own special and unique things to see and do. A short list of options include backpacking, snowboarding, luxury traveling, mountain bike riding, going to a health spa, shopping and enjoying the popular events that take place in new Zealand every year.

New Zealand Glaciers. There are many glaciers in New Zealand to explore! The contrast of gorgeous white glaciers set against the backdrop of New Zealand’s green rainforest is something that every adventure traveler will surely appreciate. Fox Glacier and Tasman Glacier are two of the more popular glaciers to explore.

New Zealand Weather. The weather in New Zealand tends to be unpredictable. Temperatures can drop as low as 14° in the wintertime and be as high as 79° in the summertime. There’s lots of rainfall throughout the year, with snow often appearing in between the months of June and October.

New Zealand People. The people who live in New Zealand, aka Kiwis, are extremely welcoming and down to earth. There’s a unique blend of cultural influences here that allow for a lifestyle that is simply like no other on the planet.

New Zealand Cuisine. New Zealanders place a large focus on fresh and diverse cuisine. Some of the more popular, and therefore favorite new Zealand foods include mussels, oysters, roast lamb, seasonal vegetables, fish and chips, pavlova, and cheese.

New Zealand National Parks. There are 13 National Parks in New Zealand, all of which are in place in order to preserve the natural heritage of this beautiful country. Must-see parks include Whanganui National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, and Arthur’s Pass National Park.

New Zealand Beaches. There are numerous beaches in New Zealand to explore, as the country’s borders are known for its long stretches of sand. The diversity of beaches is also exciting, as there are rocky beaches, sandy beaches, tree-lined beaches, cove beaches, grassy dune beaches, pebble beaches, and beaches that perfectly support marine life viewing.

Elite Travel Management Group, Inc

Australia: Adelaide and Kangaroo Island

by JuJuB

Thinking about taking your next vacation somewhere on the beautiful continent of Australia? This bucket list vacation destination offers some of the most natural wonders in all the world! There are also many things to see and do in Australia, including appreciating the absolutely gorgeous beaches, witnessing the interesting lifestyle of Aussie’s, exploring the many fascinating adventure opportunities that exist here, and exploring some of Australia’s greatest cities.


Adelaide is located in Southern Australia. With a population of just under 1.4 million people, this Australian city is known as South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital. There’s plenty of perfect white sand beaches in this coastal city, as well as a long list of local farmers markets, restaurants, and wineries to explore. The large population of both seals and dolphins living along the coastline make for great views for those who choose to walk or bike ride through Adelaide’s many trails.

There’s also a large focus on the arts, music and dance here, which is why people from all over the world fly out in order to attend its 2 biggest festivals – Fringe and WOMAD. The city is also a well-known for its popular sporting events, with tennis, cricket and football being three of the more popular sports.

Since Adelaide is only a short 30 minute plane ride to Kangaroo Island, those who choose to visit Adelaide are encouraged to also visit nearby Kangaroo Island.

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo island is Australia’s third biggest island. The beaches are clean and rugged, making them one of the top reasons why this island is quickly becoming a top vacation destination for beach lovers. Add the ability to explore its underground caves, learn about the conservation techniques used to protect the wildlife here, check out the historic lighthouses, and enjoy eating some of the best gourmet cuisine, and you can see why this Australian island is one that must be discovered!

While the ability to see the native wildlife that lives here up close is a top reason for visiting the Island, the artisanal food scene is one that any food lover will enjoy as the Island is also known for its award winning beers and wines. One of the best luxury hotels in all the world is also located here – the Southern Ocean Lodge. This lodge is situated on a cliff above the sea, and overlooks one of the most beautiful, rocky stretches of coastline the Island has to offer.

Elite Travel Management Group, Inc

House of Blues: New Orleans

by JuJuB

As everyone surely knows, there are quite a few places to enjoy listening to blues music while visiting New Orleans! One place that immediately comes to mind is the House of Blues, a perfect combination of a live music concert hall, bar and restaurant. They hold musical concerts and events, and in a variety of genres, throughout the entire year, so there’s really something for everyone.

 House of Blues: New Orleans

There are now 12 House of Blues locations in the United States, and in my opinion, the one in New Orleans is one of the absolute best! This particular House of Blues is located on Decatur St., in the French Quarter neighborhood. I recently visited the New Orleans House of Blues and decided to take advantage of their Foundation Room offerings, a VIP membership option. Because the Foundation Room only sits about 50 people, it makes for a more personal experience.

Their private member club includes LOTS of perks that I think are well worth the cost of membership. And I really enjoy the Bohemian feel. The priority access, the private VIP tables, the personalized concierge service, the ability to order from their premium menu, and more, all come with VIP membership. There’s even an option to attend pre-concert events and meet and greet with a variety of artists, as this is also part of the VIP experience.

My group was very excited that we got to enjoy a very personal VIP concert by Candlebox when we went, an American rock band that’s released multiple albums in the many years they’ve been together. There were a total of 6 in our party and every single one of us truly enjoyed the experience from the very beginning to the very end!

A few things to know about this House of Blues location – attire is casual, they serve brunch, lunch and dinner, and their food choices include American, contemporary, seafood and Cajun.

I used to be a member of the Las Vegas House of Blues. Because I have a travel agency that caters to a lot of corporate clients, as well as weddings, I would often use the membership as a perk for both types of clients. The entire staff at the House of Blues is very accommodating.

Elite Travel Management Group, Inc

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