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The future of travel – an all-hands-on-deck effort

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The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly shaken up the world, with travel and tourism, a major global growth driver accounting for 10 per cent of the world’s economy, one of the hardest-hit industries. The outbreak has in its wake created severe domino effects in the ecosystem; not only the major airlines or chain hotels affected, but also the 80% of the tourism sector made up of smaller accommodation providers plus the peripheral services associated with tourism, including food and beverage, cleaning service providers, local tour guides and transportation. With World Travel and Tourism Council’s latest forecast that up to 75 million jobs will be at risk, it begets the question: Is the industry going to recover?

The answer is yes, but it will take all hands on deck, and a strong collaboration among all parties.

Government support is crucial

The travel industry supports one in 10 jobs within the global workforce in Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe, and rising to 13.3% of total employment in Southeast Asia. Governments can and are playing a critical role in supporting the industry to protect individuals’ livelihoods and in turn lead to economic recovery. Several governments have already announced stimulus packages to cushion the impact of the outbreak. This funding is proving crucial for the travel industry to maintain business continuity in the short term, but further to that, collaboration and cooperation with key industry players is important to help drive sustainable recovery within this sector. And the industry has not waited for smoke to clear to commence such conversations. For example, governments have already started working with key players and SMEs to develop and promote new, transparent safety and hygiene standards across tourism-related businesses, which will be crucial in driving traveler confidence again. Tourism ministries and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) can partner with online travel agents (OTAs) to inspire desire to travel and attract travelers to destinations right across their markets in a sustainable way, which supports communities outside of key tourist destinations that were also impacted by COVID-19. These digital travel platforms, with their expansive reach and marketing tools, act as a bridge to help DMOs reach domestic and international travel audiences, while DMOs can encourage future travel planning by funding traveler incentives, while properties offer flexible cancellations.

 Role of industry players

Agile travel players can take the opportunity to improve their offering and build new capabilities, preparing for when travel picks up again. In fact, the recent guidelines from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to help the global tourism sector re-open smoothly and safely, emphasised the importance of innovation and technology in building the industry’s resilience. Accommodation providers, airlines and tour operators need to be attuned to changing travelers’ expectations, which may look quite different post-pandemic. Innovation to anticipate these evolving needs is essential and identifying solutions that prioritize safety and flexibility now during travel downtime, will go a long way to rebuilding confidence.

Research from Agoda.com shows that travelers expect more from their travel experience in the 2020s with advances in technology improving the efficiency and ease of booking and traveling. In fact, aside from improving payment options and booking processes, one in two South East Asians anticipate that mobile app check-in will become the norm at hotels or holiday accommodation this decade. This desire may be even more prevalent for travel post-COVID, as people may demand contactless processes as far as possible.

In addition, hoteliers and airlines for example, are reviewing and updating their cancellation policies and procedures to align with travelers’ new expectations. These updates will likely to include more flexible booking options, making use of data analytics to better review occupancy levels and pricing strategies according to demand, as well as working with different distribution channels to reach travelers with their accommodation offers or flight deals. Other players, such as credit card networks and banks, have a role to play as well and can support by promoting safe travel campaigns.

Most importantly, across the travel ecosystem, all parties should work in tandem to not only align the conditions for such new policies and strategies, but also coordinate on campaign themes and periods, making it easier and more attractive for travelers to plan and book their travel. OTAs are well positioned and equipped to connect these players, from DMOs, hotels, airlines, activity providers, and other supporting partners, to a wider consumer audience.

Travelers also have a part to play

Last but not least, travelers fuel the sector. People will want to travel again, to explore the beauty of the world on their doorstep and further afield, though we expect the pace of travel industry recovery will differ across the world. However, without the collective understanding for responsible travel once governments begin to lift travel restrictions, the recovery process will be a slow and arduous one.

Agoda’s Next Decade Survey found that more than 25% of people want to make more eco-friendly travel choices in the next decade.  The pandemic may make us reflect even more on sustainable travel; travelers may become more aware of the impact of their decisions and habits, which may lead to seeking out more environmentally friendly hotels, or picking destinations in less visited secondary cities to help spread tourism dollars and rebuild local communities.

Travel was one of the fastest-growing industries and over the years we have seen that the industry is resilient in bouncing back from crises. People’s desire to travel will not be quelled. However, bringing back tourists and re-building confidence in travel is going to take new approaches and collaboration. Like the story of the bundle of sticks, where a single stick can be easily broken but not when held in a bundle, it will take a collaborative effort from all players to pull through this together and reinvigorate the travel sector in a safe and sustainable manner.

Agoda.com

Travel & Leisure

Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces Norwegian Viva

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Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the innovator in global cruise travel, today unveiled Norwegian Viva, the next ship in its brand-new Prima Class.

Providing guests with elevated experiences including more wide-open spaces, thoughtful and stunning design and exceptional service, Norwegian Viva will begin sailing remarkable Mediterranean itineraries in June 2023, homeporting in key Southern European port cities including Lisbon, Portugal; Venice (Trieste) and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; and Athens (Piraeus), Greece. She will then sail the Southern Caribbean for her 2023-2024 Winter Season offering warm-weather getaways from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mirroring the upscale design and structure of her record-breaking sister ship Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Viva, also built by renowned Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri in Marghera, Italy, will debut at 965 feet long, 142,500 gross tons and accommodate 3,219 guests at double occupancy. Travelers will live up every second of their journey in the most spacious accommodations including the brand’s largest inside, ocean view and balcony category staterooms.

The world-class vessel will not only offer the highest staffing levels and space ratio of any new cruise ship in the contemporary and premium cruise categories and largest variety of suite categories available at sea, but will also boast a redefined The Haven by Norwegian, NCL’s ultra-premium keycard only access ship-within-a-ship concept. The Haven’s public areas and 107 suites designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s most renowned designers, will feature an expansive sundeck, a stunning infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake and an outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.

The Prima Class’ variety of recreational activities also make their elevated comeback on Norwegian Viva with only-available-on-Prima-Class experiences including the fastest freefall drop dry slides at sea with The Rush and The Drop and the largest three-level racetrack at sea with the Viva Speedway.

Norwegian Viva will feature Ocean Boulevard, the 44,000 square foot outdoor walk way which wraps around the entire ship;  Indulge Food Hall featuring 11 varieties of eateries; The Concourse boasting an outdoor sculpture garden; expansive pool decks and infinity style pools at Infinity Beach and Oceanwalk, showcasing glass bridges above water.

Harry Sommer, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “Norwegian Viva sets the standard in the premium segment, illustrating our commitment to pushing boundaries in four main areas: wide open space, service that puts guests first, thoughtful design and experiences beyond expectation. We have taken everything our guests love to the next level with this brand-new class of ships designed with them in mind.”

Norwegian Viva will boast eye-catching hull art designed by Italian graffiti and sculpture artist Manuel Di Rita, commonly known as “Peeta,” who also illustrated the exceptional hull design on Norwegian Prima. World-class architects who helped design Norwegian Prima including Rockwell Group, SMC Design and Miami-based Studio Dado, also have returned to influence the aesthetic of various restaurants, staterooms and public areas.

“Norwegian Viva, the second of six Prima Class vessels being built with us, reinforces the great collaboration between Norwegian Cruise Line and Fincantieri,” said Luigi Matarazzo, General Manager Merchant Ships Division at Fincantieri. “We were extremely satisfied that Norwegian Prima, the first of the new class, earned record-breaking bookings and we are excited to see how Norwegian Viva will live up to her sister ship. As we proved our resilience during these challenging times, this announcement represents another testament to Fincantieri´s global leadership role in the cruise sector.”

The first two Prima Class vessels, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, will feature cutting-edge alternative technologies, such as a NOx reduction system (SCR), that reduce the ship’s overall environmental impact.  SCR catalysts filter out sulfur oxides up to 98% and nitrogen oxides up to 90%, ensuring the vessels meet Tier III NOx compliance. Further, they will be equipped with an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS), an Advanced Wastewater Treatment System to treat and clean all wastewater to meet stringent international standards and Cold Ironing functionality to connect to onshore power grids to further reduce emissions while in port.

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Travel & Leisure

Surprise Your Family with These 3 Memorable Gifts

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Finding the perfect gift for your family can be a challenge, especially when you’re not quite sure where to start. And since chances are everyone in your family has different tastes, you might be wondering which types of gifts will appease everyone. Fortunately, there’s a long list of gifts that will cover all of your family’s bases. 

Narrowing down your list will ensure you’ve given plenty of thought to each idea, ideally ending up with your family being beyond thrilled with what you’ve chosen. Here are three memorable gifts to consider giving your family. 

1. An Unforgettable Travel Experience 

Traveling with your family is one of the best ways to spend quality time together away from it all. It’s a way to explore, experience new things and make plenty of memories. Surprising your family with the trip of a lifetime would be a wonderful gift for everyone, so why not add one to your list this year? 

One of the best parts about traveling as a family is that there are so many options for where to go and what to do. And when your goal is to give the perfect gift, choosing a trip that will go down in the books as one of the best family memories ever is a good place to start. 

Let a Europe cruise immerse your family in gorgeous scenery, amazing food and rich history. A ski trip would be a fun way for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors together. Imagine your whole family enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of a tropical island, maybe snorkeling or even giving parasailing a try. 

2. Family Heirloom Pieces 

One of the nicest gifts you can give anyone is something that comes from the heart. Investing in a personalized, one-of-a-kind piece for your family will add a wonderful touch to your home for years to come. What’s great about this is that there are so many directions you can take it.  

Depending on your home decor style, you may find that some types of art are better suited than others. Getting creative and making a thoughtful decision will ensure you choose the best piece for your family.

A wrought iron or hand-carved wooden namesake sign could grace your front entrance for years, bringing a sense of home each time you pass it by. A family constellation print would not only be beautiful to look at, but a fun activity to do together time after time (try pairing it with a telescope!). There are so many other options for other personalized items, including DIY projects as well. 

3. A Home Improvement Project

Is there something in your home that everyone can agree needs updating? Is there something you’ve always wanted to add to your home but haven’t gotten around to doing? Now’s the perfect time to take action. What better way than to make it a surprise for the rest of your family?

It could be that your kitchen is outdated and cramped, but it’s also the place where your family spends the most time. While a full kitchen renovation is certainly an investment, it’s also something that will pay you back in no time. Or maybe your family has always dreamed of a backyard pool, so you decide to make that a reality. It could also be something like finishing off an area of the basement and creating a game room.

Since home is where your family spends the most time, it only makes sense to do all you can to make it the best possible space for everyone. Presenting it as a gift will make whatever you do that much more special and heartfelt. 

Surprising your family with a gift can be approached in so many different ways. Remember that a gift can be anything — an experience, a material item, or a project of some sort. Spend time thinking about what would best benefit your family and bring the most joy and get ready to give the best gift ever.

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Travel & Leisure

Pakistan – A Wonderful Destination For Adventurous Sports

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Pakistan is famous for its exciting cities, historical sites, hospitality, great cuisines across the world. However, most of the international states are not aware of the fact that it is an excellent destination to enjoy adventurous sports as well as cultural festivities. The variety of adventure sports in Pakistan is enormous. There are a number of adventurous destinations for extracurricular activities in Pakistan, which anybody can travel to. From fishing to river rafting, skiing to camping and jeep safari to mountaineering, Pakistan is gifted with such vibrant geographical landscapes that makes it outstanding tourist destination.

The northern areas of Pakistan are known as hub of Adventure sports and open to tourists and sportsman’s wonderful opportunities. Its rivers falling down from the snowcapped mountains and glaciers are great for water sports like river rafting, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. Horse and Camel safaris are other two exciting activities to enjoy. There are various destinations in northern Pakistan that provide wonderful opportunities for jeep safaris. Some of the destinations that can be visited for jeep safari include Gilgit, Hunza, Shandur, Sust and Skardu. Rivers Chitral, Indus, Gilgit, Swat, Hunza, Kunar and the Neelum offer exciting opportunities for water sports. There are mountains that offer wonderful trekking trails that lead to some beautiful spots.

Likewise, Swat is being called as Switzerland of Pakistan. Pakistan also offers beautiful spots for skiing. Swat’s Malam Jabba is one of the best skiing resorts. If Jeep Safari is what gives one thrill, perhaps there is hardly any destination as exciting as the Northern Areas: hence one should come here without any fear and must enjoy the adventure.  

Mountaineers from all over the world continue to test their minds and bodies by ascending some of toughest terrains in the world. Mountaineering is a highly specialized sport, especially on the 8,000-meter high mountain peaks, five of which are located in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan. These include K-2, Nangaparbat, G-I & II and Broad peak. Besides, 70% of mountain peaks above 7,000 meters are also located in Pakistan. An elite group of mountaineers, some of the best in the world, challenge the limits of what is thought to be humanly possible by attempting every winter to climb these summits.

Pakistan has produced wonderful legends in the field of mountaineering like Nazir Sabir, the first Pakistani to summit Mount Everest; Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the first Pakistani to summit Nanga Parbat in winter; and his son Hasan Sadpara. Muhammad Ali Sadpara has put Pakistan’s mountaineering in limelight at the cost of his own life.

Pakistan also has a lot of scope in the field of rock climbing. Unlike mountaineering, rock climbing is not an exciting sport in popular perception. Rock climbing is probably one of the toughest and most dangerous forms of extreme sports.

The season, which attracts mountain climbers from all parts of the world, creates a hoard of opportunities for mountaineering-related businesses in the country and helps Pakistan generate millions in lieu of taxes and fees every year. The life of common people is very tough in Northern areas of Pakistan due to extreme weather conditions specially winter. Pakistan govt has built various lodges along the whole routes, and has offered more services, this step has enticed more people to come. Visa process for foreigners to get tourist visas for Pakistan has been made very easy.

There are few suggestions which can help in bringing more charm in these games. International federations must contribute funds which assist in making the life of public better in the northern areas of Pakistan. The doors of President and PM houses should be opened for national and international mountaineers who summit main peaks and those success stories should be highlighted on international media as well. This adventure sport should be made top priority by government. There is a need to establish an international level professional mountaineering school and a trained rescue team of experts.

The Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) should be given more strength. The ACP needs thorough professionals on board to make it more vibrant organization to promote and mainstream mountaineering in Pakistan and attract foreign mountaineers and trekkers. Government and state departments should make more focus to check the bottlenecks and facilitate the trekking expeditions. It is suggested that Mountaineers and High Altitude Porters (HAPs) have no insurance schemes, proper training and sponsorships, they should be facilitated at all levels.  

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