If you sell travel, you sell imagery. You sell to clients the imaginary picture of themselves in faraway settings.
It's a skill that draws upon our own creativity, imagination and enthusiasm for a place.
Sometimes, pictures and words alone don't always do justice to a destination. That's why I applaud Google's efforts to capture the world's wonders with its Google Earth projects.
Last year we wrote about the amazing Rob Pacheco from Hawaii Forest & Trail. He strapped on a Google Street View Trekker Cam and led a team around Hawaii, the Big Island. Together, they captured the island's rugged beauty for all to see.
Google Earth's has now completed its Temples of Angkor project. The world's largest ancient city includes the iconic Angkor Wat. It's one of the most memorable places I've ever encountered.
Now everyone can share the experience and perhaps become inspired to go there.
Imagining oneself in a destination just became a little easier.
Photo Courtesy Cambodia Tourism Board
Those of us who work with the travel industry know the benefits it delivers to the human spirit.
But we don't always look at it in terms of sheer economic numbers. That's why it's a good idea to keep tabs on the myriad resources the US Department of Commerce makes available. Their frequent reports on the impact of travel and tourism are eye-openers for even the most ardent industry supporters.
The most recent announcement from the National Travel and Tourism Office touts the continued increase in travel and tourism employment in the US. Employment grew in fact at a whole percentage point more than overall employment in the last quarter of 2013. More impressively, employment has grown for the last fifteen quarters.
Tourism spending increased as well.
Go to travel.trade.gov for more details about our industry's impact on the economy.
Let's all make more of an impact in the weeks to come!
The apricot trees are in bloom and bright purple wildflowers dot the vineyards. River cruise season on the Danube is starting out under warm sunshine and blue skies.
Here in Austria's famous Wachau Valley, the town of Durnstein is just waking up from winter. As always, the town's two landmarks give an unforgettaible first impression.
One, the graceful blue and white baroque church, towers over stone walls and steep cobbled streets.
The other is the crumbled hilltop castle where Richard the Lionheart lay imprisoned during the third Crusade. His countrymen paid a true king's ransom to get him back.
Today, it's a twenty minute walk up to the ruins. It's not for the faint of heart. But for those who can tear themselves away from apricot brandy tastings in the shops, it's worthwhile effort.
The Danube is majestic here, and vineyards line the hills as far as the eye can see.
The view you might say is priceless. Or at least worth a king's ransom.
Photo Courtesy Strategic Travel Media
We sang and danced all night on the AmaCerto. Austrian heuriger wine taverns, lively music (plus free-flowing wine) turned passengers into friends.
...and Elvis, Billy Joel and Tina Turner once we got back on the ship and the karaoke took over.
I've covered cruise tourism for many years, and I've never had a livelier time on the rivers or the oceans.
This is after all, the Melodies of the Danube itinerary, so music was in the air.
But there's also something pretty special about the AmaWaterways philosophy. They pay close attention to even the smallest detail of passenger comfort.
You can't pre-plan comaraderie, enthusiasm and laughter, however. That either takes hold or not, depending on the crew, the ship, the itinerary and the guests.
On this the first AmaWaterways wine cruise of the season, all came together perfectly.
An ocean line has long used the Fun Ship moniker.
But, anyone about the AmaCerto this week will agree.
That labels belongs to us.
Photo Courtesy Strategic Travel Media
On the islands or on the mainland, it's great to connect with my friends at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii. They were here in L.A. a few weeks ago, and I was able to chat with them about new trends, renovations and selling points.
Not that it takes much to entice visitors to the eleven Starwood Hawaii properties.
They've some of the most iconic destinations in Hawaii.
A new Pursue Your Paradise package is making them look even more attractive. It's a credit of up to $1,000 that can be used on dining, spa, room upgrades and more.
From what I hear, it's proving a big success with frequent visitors and first-timers as well.
I'm not surprised, though I am a bit jealous. There's nothing like a visit from Hawaiian friends to make you want to return immediately.
Photo Courtesy Strategic Travel Media
Spring is my favorite time to cruise the waterways of Europe. This year, I'm especially excited to return to the villages and town squares I visited a few short months ago.
The holiday chill of that visit has given way to spring sunshine, albeit a tad brisk still.
I'll be cruising with the effervescent Kristin Karst, co-founder of AmaWaterways. A group of top travel and tourism professionals will be on board as well.
Follow this space for more on what's new, exciting and inspiring in the river cruise arena!
And let me know if you are planning any European river cruises this spring.
Photo Courtesy AmaWaterways
Do you remember lining up at seedy storefront telephone booth "facilities" in foreign cruise ports?
I do. They were the only way to stay in touch back home during a cruise.
That is, unless you wanted to pay a fortune to use ship satellite phones.
We've come a long way since then, thanks to some nifty smart phone apps.
One of the ones making waves is Norwegian Cruise Line's iConcierge. The free app is available for cruises on Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and the new Norwegian Getaway. It rolls out to the rest of the fleet by the end of the year.
Staying in touch on board and on shore has never been easier. And that's a big plus for families and groups traveling together.
Like so many other aspects of modern-day cruising, it's not surprising to see Norwegian Cruise Line leading the way.
Have you or your clients used iConcierge? Let us know how it worked out.
Screenshot of Norwegian iConcierge iPhone Application
Following a weekend of distressing travel news, it was nice to see a lighthearted headline come across my in box.
Lighthearted in terms of content, but serious business in terms of a travel niche.
I'm talking about the cruise industry's ever-expanding quest to reel in family travelers.
The latest program to hit the waves is Carnival Cruise Lines' Seuss At Sea.
It debuted to the delight of young cruisers last week on the Carnival Splendor. From the looks of things, I'd say it attracted entire families, and not simply the kiddies.
Can't say I blame them. I'm partial to the Grinch myself, but we've all got a favorite Dr. Seuss character.
I have fond memories of my kindergarten teacher reading Horton Hears a Who and Are You My Mother? during story time.
And what boomer doesn't have a softspot in their heart (if not their tummies) for Green Eggs and Ham?
I predict great things for the new initiative, set to rollout fleet-wide by next year.
Or as the beloved Theodore Geisel would say in one of his later works, "Oh, the places you'll go."
Photos Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines
Tomorrow is International Women's Day and this year's theme is "Inspiring Change."
Women in travel and tourism inspire change every day, by opening doors to new adventure, culture, cuisine and countless authentic experiences.
I meet countless professional women in travel, each making a difference and inspiring change in their own way.
I salute you all, and wish you a wonderful day tomorrow.
Photo Courtesy InternationalWomen'sDay.com
And they're taking things up a notch on Friday.
Beginning at midnight PST on Feb. 28, they'll release a new video every hour on YouTube.
It's all directed at showcasing the Golden State as the place where dreams come true, sometimes in the most offbeat ways.
Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry here, and I'm pretty proud of what they're doing at Visit California. The YouTube spots are designed to give them over 130 million hits.
I plan to be one of them.
Photo and Video Courtesy Visit California