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Emerging Trends in Family Travel



With summer in full swing, many families are looking for fun ways to connect and bond through travel. If you are at a loss for how to make your next trip as special as possible, you would be wise to check out some of the latest trends in travel for inspiration.

Family of four having fun on tropical beach

Road Tripping

With air travel down due to the COVID-19 crisis, more and more families are taking to the road for their vacations. Many families are choosing to travel closer to home and opting for a road trip over an elaborate vacation. This is a great time to explore those areas in your home state that you have always wanted to see but never had the time. Road tripping also gives you more control over your vacation so that you can customize it to plan your exact needs at the time.

RV Trips

Also related to the global pandemic is the rise of RV trips as an emerging vacation trend. Traveling in an RV eliminates the need to get on an airplane or use hotels. You will also have access to a kitchen to prepare meals on your own rather than having to find acceptable restaurants. Traveling in an RV gives you the flexibility to be spontaneous, deciding to linger longer or head out earlier to your next destination. Because it is easier to find a place to park your RV than it is to have to book hotel reservations, you can let the road be your guide.

Matching Family Pajamas

Clothing trends come and go. One of the hottest travel trends this year is matching family pajamas to commemorate the special trip. There are a variety of online vendors that will allow you to customize the perfect matching pajamas for everyone in your family. Not only will this bring everyone together and ensure that you have a fun souvenir from your trip, but it will also provide great photo opportunities. Ordering matching pajamas for everyone is a particularly fun idea for a cozy winter vacation.

Multigenerational Vacations

The family vacation has moved on beyond the traditional nuclear family. Multigenerational vacations are the new hot trend in travel. Why limit your travel party to your immediate family members? Bringing along grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more is a great way to create family memories and honor your elders with a fun trip together. With the rise of home share rentals, it is easier than ever to accommodate large groups on your trip.

Active Trips

It used to be that a vacation was largely defined as a time to relax and rejuvenate. One of the latest trends in family travel is an increase in trips that focus on activity rather than simply laying on a beach. This trend takes on many forms. Perhaps you want to enjoy a backpacking trip with your older kids? Or a vacation that puts the focus on enjoying exciting water sports? The goal of this type of trip is to experience new activities while pushing the limits of your body to achieve more.

Educational Travel

If you are like most parents, you want to make the most out of your travel away from home by making the trip educational for your children. Combining educational endeavors with travel is a great way to make learning fun. Your child will not even realize how much they are learning when they are placed outside the confines of a normal school classroom. Good ideas for destinations for educational travel in the US include Washington, DC, Boston, and Williamsburg, Virginia. However, with a little creativity, you can provide educational opportunities at any trip destination.

By choosing a destination and activities that offer a little something for everyone in your travel party, you are sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

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Trump Administration Adds to American Travel Restrictions in Cuba




President Trump on Wednesday announced a series of new sanctions against Cuba that prohibit Americans from importing Cuban cigars and rum and staying in hotels funded by the Cuban government.

The new restrictions follow a series of measures announced by the Trump administration in 2019 that aimed to curtail travel to Cuba from the United States, including a ban on cruise ships, private yachts, fishing vessels and group educational and cultural trips.

The Treasury Department said on Wednesday that United States citizens will also be restricted from attending or organizing conferences in Cuba and participating in public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions and exhibitions on the island.

“Today, as part of our continuing fight against communist oppression, I am announcing that the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government,” Mr. Trump said at a White House event honoring Bay of Pigs veterans. “We’re also further restricting the importation of Cuban alcohol and Cuban tobacco.”

“These actions will ensure that U.S. dollars do not fund the Cuban regime and go directly to the Cuban people,” he added.

While the sanctions are designed to apply pressure on the Cuban government to cut its support for the embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the announcement on Wednesday appeared to be an attempt to appeal to Cuban-American voters in Florida, a battleground state in the 2020 presidential race.

“This is a desperate and hypocritical attempt by Trump to pander to Cuban-American voters in Florida,” Enrique Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Democratic Party said in an email. “American citizens are already banned from traveling to Cuba because of the coronavirus.” Mr. Gutierrez said that Mr. Trump was “using our foreign policy for his own political gain.”

Cuba is currently closed to foreign travelers because of the coronavirus pandemic, but when it opens, American citizens will be banned from lodging at 433 hotels funded by the Cuban government or “certain well-connected insiders,” the State Department said, urging travelers to instead stay in private accommodations, or “casas particulares,” owned and operated by “legitimately independent entrepreneurs.”

“The Cuban regime has been redirecting revenue from authorized U.S. travel for its own benefit, often at the expense of the Cuban people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday. “This Administration is committed to denying Cuba’s oppressive regime access to revenues used to fund their malign activities, both at home and abroad.”

A Cuban embassy official in Washington told Reuters that the application of sanctions against Cuba has not achieved the proposed objectives in 60 years. “It is a wrong policy that is widely rejected by American society and even among Cuban Americans,” the official said.

By: Ceylan Yeginsu
Title: Trump Administration Adds to American Travel Restrictions in Cuba
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Published Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2020 15:04:31 +0000

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Disney Lays Off 28,000, Mostly at Its 2 U.S. Theme Parks




LOS ANGELES — For six months, Disney has kept tens of thousands of theme park workers on furlough with full health-care benefits in hopes that a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel would appear. On Tuesday, Disney conceded that none was coming.

The company’s theme park division said it would eliminate 28,000 jobs in the United States. Theme parks will account for most of the layoffs, although Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s retail stores will also be affected.

“As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in an email to “cast members,” Disney’s term for its theme park workers.

About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will also be among those laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 people before the pandemic. The job cuts will come from both resorts.

Disneyland in California has remained closed because Gov. Gavin Newsom has not allowed theme parks in the state to restart operations. About 32,000 people work at the Disneyland complex and the majority are unionized and have been on furlough since April.

Mr. D’Amaro said in a statement that the layoffs were “exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.” Disney held a virtual news conference on Sept. 22 in an attempt to pressure Mr. Newsom to lift restrictions. “The longer we wait, the more devastation to the Orange County and Anaheim communities,” Mr. D’Amaro said then. “It’s time.”

A spokesman for Mr. Newsom had no immediate comment.

In Florida, where government officials have been much less restrictive, Walt Disney World reopened on a limited basis in mid-July. About 20,000 union workers, or roughly half of the resort’s unionized employees, were called back for the reopening. The remainder have stayed on furlough. (Disney World employed about 77,000 people in total before the pandemic.)

But attendance at Disney World has been weaker than Disney expected. In particular, families have not felt safe flying to Florida for vacation, according to travel agents. Families are also delaying visits because they don’t want to pay for Disney excursions when the experience remains limited — no fireworks, fewer dining options, no hugs from Mickey Mouse, shorter park hours — and they have to wear face masks.

So far, Disney’s zealous theme park safety procedures appear to be working. University epidemiologists and public health officials have said that — as far as they can tell — there have been no outbreaks among Disney workers or guests. Disney has declined to comment except to note that new infections in Florida have dropped sharply since Disney World reopened.

Revenue at Disney’s worldwide theme park division, which includes a still-closed cruise line and the Disney Store chain, totaled $1 billion in the most recent quarter, an 85 percent decline from the same period a year earlier. Operating profit plunged by $3.7 billion, resulting in a quarterly loss of $2 billion. Mr. D’Amaro said on Tuesday that the restructuring would create a more “effective and efficient operation when we return to normal.”

The rest of Disney has been bouncing back. Live sports returned to ESPN in August. Movie and television production has restarted, although Disney continues to postpone film releases. Disney+ has been growing rapidly enough to keep Disney’s stock price relatively high at $125, down 3 percent from a year ago.

Central Florida’s once-booming leisure and hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic. Unemployment in Orange County — home to Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and dozens of mom-and-pop tourist attractions — stood at 11.6 percent in August, up from 3.1 percent in August 2019, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Osceola County, which abuts Disney World to the south, had 15.1 percent unemployment in August, up from 3.5 percent.

Statewide, the August unemployment rate in Florida was 7.4 percent.

Universal Orlando laid off a steady stream of employees over the summer and recently notified state officials that about 5,400 workers had been placed on extended furlough. SeaWorld laid off 1,900 employees at its Orlando properties this month. A few days before its layoffs, SeaWorld surprised workers by altering its severance policy, moving to a discretionary system from a fixed formula based on tenure.

Workers at Universal and SeaWorld are not unionized.

“The layoffs and furloughs have been devastating,” said Mike McElmury, trustee of Teamsters Local 385, which represents about 5,000 Disney World bus drivers, laundry workers and entertainers, including those who greet visitors in costume as Disney characters. At least 2,000 were still on furlough as of Monday. “We’re at the point where people are having a hard time figuring out where they will get their next meal,” Mr. McElmury said.

Over the summer, Orlando unions created a weekly food bank for furloughed theme park workers. Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 Disney World ride operators, custodians, parking employees and vacation planners, said that the food bank was initially stocked to serve about 200 people. About 800 were provided with free groceries on Saturday, with the line stretching two miles, Mr. Clinton said.

Unite Here affiliates have spent more than $100,000 on the effort, in part by soliciting donations on its website.

Anaheim is in similarly rough shape. Disney had planned to reopen the property on July 17 with the same safety protocols as in Florida. But Disney abandoned that plan after unionized Disneyland employees told Mr. Newsom that they worried that Disney was moving too fast; Mr. Newsom threw the brakes on a regulatory process that would allow California theme parks to reopen.

Unemployment in Anaheim reached 15 percent in July, the most recent month for which data is available, up from 3.3 percent in July of last year. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce said this month that Disneyland’s closure had cost local municipalities $1.3 billion in taxes and other revenue.

“It’s a disaster,” Harry Sidhu, Anaheim’s mayor, said at a news conference on Sept. 16 in which he pleaded with Mr. Newsom to allow Disneyland to reopen. Mr. Sidhu was joined by officials from nearby Garden Grove and Buena Park, home to the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, which had 2019 attendance of roughly four million.

By: Brooks Barnes
Title: Disney Lays Off 28,000, Mostly at Its 2 U.S. Theme Parks
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Published Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2020 23:01:12 +0000

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The Future of Airbnb




In the travel wreckage caused by the pandemic, home-sharing has emerged as battered, but with a steady pulse, as rental houses became social-distancing refuges for the travel-starved.

Home rentals have outperformed hotels in 27 global markets since the onset of Covid-19, according to a report by the hotel benchmarking firm STR and the short-term rental analysts AirDNA. As leisure travel ticked up this summer, average daily rates were higher for rentals in July 2020 versus July 2019 in the United States — from about $300 to $323 — thanks to the popularity of larger homes.

Still, global restrictions have squeezed every aspect of the travel industry, including vacation rentals. Across home-sharing platforms, according to STR and AirDNA, occupancy fell by almost half between mid-March and the end of June to between roughly 33 and 36 percent, depending on the size of the rental (hotels by comparison fell to an average of 17.5 percent occupancy).

The biggest player in the short-term rental market, with more than 7 million listings in over 220 countries, is Airbnb. Over the years, its rampant growth and lack of transparency have made it a target for everything from charges of fueling overtourism and turning formerly residential neighborhoods into tourist zones to enabling raucous parties despite complaints and virus-related restrictions on gatherings.

After laying off a quarter of its work force in the spring, Airbnb jettisoned some new ventures, including forays into transportation and entertainment, and hunkered down to focus on its core strength, lodging, even as its valuation fell from a high of $31 billion to, recently, $18 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Now, as Airbnb prepares to go public, we talked to Airbnb’s co-founder and chief executive, Brian Chesky, along with other industry experts, about some of the company’s challenges and the ways it is changing travel.

“People want to travel, they just don’t want to get on airplanes,” Mr. Chesky said. “They don’t want to go for business. They don’t want to stay in the really big cities as prevalently as they used to. They don’t want to be in crowded hotel districts.” But, he said, “they do want to get out of the house. And so we think demand is going to be strong in the future. I’m very optimistic, actually, about the industry.”

Airbnb has touted privacy and guests’ control over their environment — including having your own kitchen in lieu of patronizing restaurants — as safeguards during the pandemic. It instituted new cleaning guidelines and indicated in late August that more than 1 million listings had earned the “Enhanced Clean” certification, which involves training in new guidelines that detail how and what to wash and sanitize. The procedures recommend 45 minutes of cleaning per room. Some listings guarantee a 72-hour vacancy window before check in.

The company says its offerings are aligned with the way people are traveling now, in family and friend groups to less populated destinations. Over Labor Day weekend, 30 percent of its bookings — double the previous year — were in remote areas, though classic vacation spots like Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Palm Springs, Calif., were among the most popular. Urban bookings remain down.

“We’re seeing a little blurring between traveling and living,” Mr. Chesky said. “Before the pandemic, you lived somewhere 50, 51 weeks of the year, and if you were so fortunate, you’d go on your once-or-twice-a-year vacation. Now the pandemic is changing how people want to work, travel and live.” Remote school and work unbind families from their homes. “People are living differently and people want to live anywhere,” he added.

Whether travel truly turns into nomadism remains to be seen, though the average length of stay since May 1 increased 58 percent to more than four days, and fall bookings are stronger than usual, according to AirDNA.

Cities around the world, from Barcelona to Vancouver, are looking to curb Airbnb and other short-term rental companies, which many blame for hollowing out neighborhoods as real estate managers took long-term leases and listed them as more lucrative short-term rentals.

“You can earn more renting out apartments and houses on Airbnb than renting to locals,” said David Wachsmuth, an associate professor in the School of Urban Planning at McGill University in Montreal. “What’s happened on their platform is that actual home-sharing is a fraction of the activity. It’s dominated by commercial interests.”

Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that as listings rise in a city, so do rents. Analyses by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, found the costs to local communities of having Airbnb listings, including rising housing prices and shrinking availability, likely outweigh the benefits.

“The problems of overtourism were in the making for a long time,” said Makarand Mody, an assistant professor of marketing in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University. “Airbnb came along and made it worse. It was seen as one evil that needs to be sorted out, but there are much deeper societal and economic issues. Airbnb is just the supply side. But demand has increased so much.”

By 2019, the rise of the middle class globally contributed to expanding tourism above the rate of worldwide economic growth for nine years in a row, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In Airbnb, many travelers found affordable accommodations that allowed them to stay in neighborhoods rather than business centers.

Now that the pandemic is the ultimate overtourism disrupter, Mr. Chesky believes travel has been redistributed in a lasting way to places beyond bucket-list capitals. “It’s kind of redeemed our vision,” he said. “What I would love is to be able to help spread out travel to as many communities as possible rather than over-concentrating them in any one place.”

“My speculation is that the world does not quickly snap back to the way it was,” he added. “I don’t think travel will ever, ever look like it did in January. The world can’t change so dramatically like it has and then one of the industries that’s been hit hardest just looks exactly like it did before.”

Communities aim to ensure that. Last summer, Oahu enacted a law to restrict rentals without permits on the Hawaiian island, enforced with fines. In Europe, cities like Lisbon and Dublin are buying back leases or forcing landlords into long-term rentals in an effort to ensure that when tourism rebounds it won’t overwhelm them again.

Enforcement remains thorny, and Airbnb has been accused of looking the other way when it comes to illegal listings. Last year, Los Angeles limited rentals to owner-occupied properties registered with the city, though many illegal units remain on the site, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In response, Airbnb just launched a new City Portal that it says will allow governments to more easily identify listings that don’t comply with local regulations, such as unregistered listings.

Before the launch, the company shared the new tool with San Francisco’s Office of Short-Term Rentals. “They’re pretty positive about it and hopeful this will definitely improve their ability to get bad actors off the platform,” said Jeffrey Cretan, a spokesman for the city’s mayor.

Perhaps because of these scofflaws, Airbnb says it has not lost significant listings. According to AllTheRooms Analytics, among popular cities in Europe, only Rome and Lisbon have shed listings, about 2,000 each. In Lisbon, the crackdown still leaves just above 14,500 listings, the same figure as in January 2019, but down from the peak in July 2019.

The effect of more regulations may show up in the future, posing a threat to a robust portfolio. “For a platform like Airbnb, they’re not just worried about the demand side, but the supply side,” Mr. Mody, of Boston University, said, noting the travel freeze may convince hosts to put their units in the long-term rental market, shrinking the platform, and worrying potential investors. “When you’re living on venture capital, profitability is not as important as growth,” Mr. Mody added. “Shareholders will be a lot less patient.”

During the pandemic, Host Compliance, which tracks legal compliance among short-term rentals for 350 cities and counties in the United States, said noise complaints about so-called “party houses” tripled.

“A lot of people have been at home for a long time and they have to let some steam off and can’t jump on a plane to go to Europe or Cancún to party so they are renting out short-term rentals in driving distance from their homes,” said Ulrik Binzer, the founder and general manager of Host Compliance.

Often, these rentals are in residential neighborhoods, triggering noise complaints and health concerns about large gatherings.

In Miami Beach, short-term rentals were closed this summer, though those within condo and apartment buildings were allowed to reopen, with capacity limits, in August. That month, the city of Los Angeles cut the power on a house (not an Airbnb property) rented by prominent TikTok stars during a large party.

In August, Airbnb pulled the plug, too, announcing a global ban on party houses, defined as those that persistently generate complaints from neighbors. The company says 73 percent of listings already ban parties, though hosts often allow small gatherings like baby showers and birthday parties. Occupancy is now limited to 16 people.

Airbnb imposed a similar restriction in Canada earlier this year after a party in Toronto ended in three shooting deaths, according to BBC News.

“We want to do everything we can do to preserve the character of the communities and not allow these parties to get out of hand,” Mr. Chesky said.

It’s too soon, say observers, to know if the ban is working.

“The issue with Airbnb party houses is enforcement,” Mr. Binzer said. “It’s a little like having the fox watch the henhouse.”

On Sept. 14, a Twitter user wrote, “Found a cheap @Airbnb for 52 dollars. Cleaning fee for 1 night, 125. Nonsense.”

It’s a typical complaint about the platform, which lists attractive nightly rates, but buries the fees until users begin booking. Cleaning and service fees can be modest — zero to $25, say — or add $450 to a booking, reflecting a mix of mandatory and optional host-applied fees. Sometimes there are additional occupancy taxes. And in some countries, Airbnb applies a Value Added Tax on its service fees.

Under Airbnb’s pricing structure, hosts pay the company 3 percent of the booking subtotal, which includes the nightly rate plus any cleaning fee and fees for additional guests. Most guests are charged a service fee of less than 14.2 percent of the booking subtotal, which goes to Airbnb. (If hosts elect to cover the fee entirely, they normally pay Airbnb 14 to 16 percent of the subtotal.)

Because of their variability and lack of transparency, fees are the latest financial facet users have fixated on after the company created its extenuating circumstances policy during the pandemic. It said that travelers who had reservations made on or before March 14 could cancel and not be subject to cancellation fees, even if, in their rental agreement, they were in the penalty period. The policy has been extended several times, now to Oct. 31. (While most guests were happy with the resolution, many hosts were not and Airbnb later apologized to hosts for not consulting them).

Airbnb said it aims to introduce a redesign of price displays this year. “We’re trying to partner with hosts to create clear standards and change the search line, so if someone has higher cleaning fees, that affects their placement” in search results, Mr. Chesky said. “We’ve heard from travelers that they want a simpler way for us to show more of the price up front.”

Four years before George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, igniting this summer’s protests for social justice, the emergence of the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack called attention to a spate of racist incidents that users said happened at rental homes. Some Black renters were reported by neighbors as thieves. Others were subject to abuse by racist hosts rejecting their bookings. Complaints by Muslim, transgender and other groups followed.

Airbnb worked to purge discrimination from its platform by hiding guest’s profile pictures until a booking is confirmed; hiring anti-discrimination specialists to audit the platform; and creating a reporting channel to identify listings not complying with its nondiscrimination policy. The company said it has removed 1.3 million offenders.

This month, Airbnb plans to launch Project Lighthouse, a research initiative in the United States that aims to measure bias through perception based on names and photos, to determine where and when bias happens on the platform, from booking through reviews.

According to the company, the study has been in the works for two years in partnership with the racial justice organization Color of Change, with input from several social justice nonprofits, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“It’s really hard to change what you can’t measure,” Mr. Chesky said. “Then hopefully we will use this data to continue to evolve our platform and reduce the bias.”

Its tech focus — on the platform rather than the in-person experience — won’t address incidents of in-person bias. Through its existing Open Doors policy, Airbnb offers to find a guest an alternative place to stay if they feel they have been discriminated against by a host.

“In a departure from its peers in Big Tech who pass off structural problems on the behavior of individual users, with Project Lighthouse, Airbnb is attempting to take responsibility for how tech platforms create the opportunity for harm at scale,” wrote Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior campaigns director at Color Of Change, in an email.

Airbnb doesn’t just rent lodgings. Through its Airbnb Experiences branch, it offers classes in mole making with an Indigenous cook in Mexico City, a music and cultural tour of Havana with a D.J. and walks among penguins with a conservationist in South Africa.

During the pandemic, many of its Experiences went virtual. Now, via Zoom, armchair travelers can visit an animal rescue farm in Connecticut, follow a plague doctor through Prague and sit in on a songwriting session in Nashville.

After Airbnb’s layoffs, many wondered whether Airbnb Experiences, long rumored to be losing money, would be shelved, too. In January, it had 50,000 Experiences in 1,000 cities. During the pandemic, the division was shut down, and later transitioned, with a fraction of its offerings, online. Today, it has 700 virtual Experiences generating $2 million in bookings over the past five months. In-person Experiences have resumed in more than 70 countries with restrictions on group sizes, though the company declined to say how many Experiences are available in person and how much money they are making.

“I would be surprised if they drop it completely,” Mr. Mody, of Boston University, said. “They don’t want to be just a home rental company. Travel is about experiencing the destination in its entirety and they want to play a role in that.”

The company said it stands by Experiences, even waiving its take — which is normally 20 percent — for its Social Impact Experiences, which include playing with shelter cats in Osaka, Japan ($25) and learning beat-making with an organization devoted to teaching underserved youth ($75).

“Experiences was hit hard by social distancing,” Mr. Chesky said, maintaining that the online transition has been successful. “In a world where there’s not a lot of things to do, we think there’s a window for Airbnb Experiences,” he said.

By: Elaine Glusac
Title: The Future of Airbnb
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Published Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2020 18:10:01 +0000

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