The charm of Home stays can never go away!

airbnb cape-town-

Over the past decade, a booming demand of tourists had AirBnb connect fly-by-night tourists and short-term renters to “cozy” lofts and five-star “experiences” at homes in exotic locations.

But today if you could freely walk the world’s most famous city streets, you would see humanity stopped in its tracks. National lockdowns and global travel bans have emptied bustling hotspots like Sydney’s Opera House, Bangkok’s night markets, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Colosseum in Rome. Global tourism is slammed shut, and the ecosystem that sprang up around them has fallen flat.

Along with air travel, the hotel and AirBnb segment too witnessed a massive drop in numbers. Apartments -read AirBnb- once reserved for well-heeled tourists have seen bookings slump anywhere from 41% to 96%. Some of them are either on long-term rentals or recently offered to health workers in solidarity.

However as lockdown restrictions are eased in several countries, many in the travel industry are hoping that the businesses can resume in the coming months.

Although it is too soon in the day to have the same number of holiday makers as pre -COVID, the entire travel industry is pretty gung ho about the fact that by the end of the year, people would once again have the confidence to travel just as before December 2019

Airbnb-Cleaning

Of course the onus to maintain sanitation and safety falls on all the stake-holders here, and with higher cleaning standards, hygiene and physical (and not ‘social’) distancing, business will once again continue in a new form, and of course as a new normal.

Throughout Europe where customer confidence is returning post the lifting of lockdown, domestic AirBnb reservations are seeing a glimmer of hope for the Hospitality industry that’s been the hardest hit.

Hotel data confirms that most properties almost everywhere in the world are operating at just 10-15 per cent occupancy. COVID-19 is having a more devastating and sudden impact on the travel business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.

hotel

And to say that restoring customer trust in this global crisis is of utmost importance for returning customers, both in the air and on ground.

AirBnb had announced that a new cleaning protocol with expert-backed cleaning materials for hosts will include a learning and certification programme.

It is up to the host to maintain strict cleanliness and preventive measures. The protocol will also help to space out reservations to have 24 hours between people entering a room. . Alternatively, hosts can monitor physical distancing by instituting a 72-hour booking buffer in between stays.

AIRBNB

Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies and protocols. Most hotels are using “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls. The famous ‘breakfast buffets’ are a thing of the past. Most of them are making sure that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and are also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

The major concern here is around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust. The tidal wave of cancellations that came along with COVID-19 suddenly made travelers aware of the wide range of terms in bookings — from no-penalty, last-minute cancellations to full liability even months in advance of a trip. Of course this trend will still continue.

Travel in this new world will look different, and feel different. Although it will be a long time before things go back to being anywhere near normal, I am sure along with other things, AirBnb will also evolve accordingly.

As travelers are more likely to skip big cities, staycations in domestic markets and home rentals in smaller townships will see a boom, which will also contribute to positive growth in other micro businesses such as local eateries and local crafts.

jaipur

People will want options that are closer to home, a lot safer, and more affordable. But people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them—human connect.  And they also want to go back -back to their roots, back to the basics, and back to what is truly special —everyday people who host in their homes and offer memorable experiences!

-Madhavi

OS: Theprint; Euronews; CNtraveller
PC:Skift;Tripoto;Airbnb;NBC15

 

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

travel

A long time since you packed your bags and set off on that much needed holiday.

A long time, since you were excited to see that landmark and click pictures near it.

A long time since you planned and wanted to take that road trip with your friends.

A long time, since you met your family and friends living across the shores.

A long time since you exchanged hugs and kisses and had some amazing meals with them.

A long time, since those early morning wake up calls, to watch the sunrise or have a swim with the dolphins.

A long time since you walked the unfamiliar streets of a new destination and caught the eye of a stranger.

A long time, since you had a stroll in the green spaces of a different city.

A long time, since you were stopped in your tracks  by an entertainer in the middle of a piazza.

A long time, since you skipped lunch to gorge on a variety of ice creams and frozen gelatos

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travel4

Days, weeks and months flew by. Hasn’t it?

Oh how I am craving to do all this real soon.

My heart is longing to travel the world again.

I am so eager to stand in the queue of the immigration again.

To wait in line for boarding a flight.

For sleeping through a long haul flight.

For smelling the clean pristine air of a different country.

To eat at new places , to sightsee , to shop, so much more to do yet …….

The good life is calling out to me.

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And I am very sure that we all will be able to soon fly out of our nests to roam the world like free birds.

SOON !!

Keeping a very very positive mindset here !!!!!

-Madhavi

 

 

 

How COVID-19 will change the way you travel

covid travel 1

COVID -19 is like the monster that engulfed the entire world in its pandemic circle too fast. Most countries did not have time to even prepare for the basics, leave aside eventualities.

Besides targeting people’s health this pandemic has also devastated businesses around the globe leading to unprecedented job losses, closures of establishments and doom as far as economy goes – worst since the Great Depression of 1930s.

Every component of the Travel and Tourism industry, including air, rail,  ground transport  and hotels & restaurants are the most severely hit sectors globally, as the outbreak continues to take its toll.

What is now important is to try to plan ahead of the curve , to re-imagine and re-shape the new reality of travel.

covid travel 3

Social distancing – the new norm?

After this contagion has been contained, international travel may not be a top priority for the majority of the global population, partly out of fear (until a vaccine is found), and partly due to the collapse of the economy.

Airlines and airports will have to work together in tandem to bring back customer confidence, and to support a new way of travelling defined by social distancing and increased sanitization.

Although compulsory, this could be particularly challenging for smaller airports which tend to have large crowds of people due to relatively small spaces.

Managing large queues in typically congested areas such as check-in halls and security/immigration checkpoints poses an additional challenge.

Queue management will have to be enforced strictly which could ‘up your time taken door to door’ with longer pre check in times and longer wait at security and immigration.

Of course technology will have to take a leap forward and enable airports and airlines overcome the hurdles of this new reality; besides a lot of self discipline amongst travellers.

covid 4

Automation will become paramount

All elements of the industry will have to make swift progress to re-imagine, re-shape and re-invent travel.

A range of contactless, self-service technologies to screen the vital signs of passengers, and baggage drops will have to be implemented by majority of airports. And for this the demand for automation, robotics and biometrics, will only become stronger.

The implementation of biometric E-gates may somewhat cut queuing times in the future but getting a number of airports e-enabled could be a mammoth task as of now.

With a lot of people unlikely to be wanting to touch surfaces and interact with agents as little as possible, automating as many passenger processes as possible will be crucial.

Maybe scanners on the lines of CCTV and surveillance platforms could be adapted to spot passengers who are indicating potential illness symptoms.

And of course carrying a certificate of immunity along with other travel documents will become mandatory.

To take things really out of hand, so to speak, passengers may turn to using their own devices at every touch point – right from checking in and navigating through the terminal, to controlling In flight entertainment  creating a real opportunity for airlines to promote relevant ancillary services though their mobile apps.

covid travel 2

Reconsider flight schedules

Most airlines especially those who have quick turnarounds between flights will have to look at rescheduling their time table to ensure thorough sanitizing of the aircraft while on the ground/in transit.

Cabin decontamination will have to be given centre stage to reassure passengers and crew that the cabins are sanitized and healthy.

However, reduced turnaround time has always been a weapon for airlines to cut costs, and also to keep airports profitable, so this would certainly pose a big challenge to the industry.

Also in the immediate future airlines will also have to consider using “social distancing” within the aircraft. The “seat separating” approach in which every second seat in the aircraft would have to be left unoccupied.

This would present another financial blow to airlines. But looking at a different point of view here, giving passengers a vacant space could also provide a sort of “a new premium travel experience” since passengers are guaranteed of having an empty seat next to them.

Although this could have a positive passenger experience so to speak, will the airlines charge more in such case? …. and more importantly will the passengers be willing to pay more.

If industry veterans are to be believed it will take a year to 18 months to reach anywhere near pre-crisis traffic levels, and the industry may not record pre-COVID-19 traffic volumes again before the end of 2021.

But at the same time, it is important to remember that while this crisis has put immediate growth ambitions on hold; all stakeholders should use the real opportunity for meaningful innovation and transformation to be accelerated.

Ultimately, airports and airlines must take action now to help secure consumer confidence and ensure they are well placed when the demand for air travel inevitably returns; and also be future-ready!

ny9

 

 

-Madhavi

 

 

OS:FTE
OP: AirlineTrends;TravelDaily; GoogleNews

Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

vranasi

Varanasi also known as Benaras or Kashi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is regarded as the holiest place in the world in Hinduism.

According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.  In Hindu cosmology, the city is considered the, “center of Earth”, and most religious activity here occurs around stair structures called ‘Ghats’.

Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where Gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. The city is known for its belief that any one leaving his / her mortal body here, goes to heaven in their afterlife. Its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage.

There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find some festival to plan your trip around. There is never a dull moment in the city.

The city known as the spiritual capital of India, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the country and hence it’s quite natural that Maha Shivaratri (the wedding of Shiva & Parvati) is celebrated here in a grand manner. Mahashivratri, “The Great Night of Shiva” is considered the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar.

kashi

The festival sees more than a million Hindus from all over India, converge at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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The city is thrown into frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. The preparation starts early in the morning with a parade that starts from and ends at the Tilbhandeshwar temple. The procession lasts roughly about 5 hours and it is celebrated with loud music in the background and people consuming Bhaang (a form of marijuana legal and common in Varanasi) and dancing in the procession. As marijuana is considered as the blessing of Lord Shiva, a lot of people do it here for religious reasons. After the procession, everyone returns back to the temple, offers their prayers and perform rituals.

Out of the 88 Ghats in Varanasi the most popular one is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. It attracts a large gathering every evening, when a group of priests performs a synced ritual known as Ganga aarti -to praise and pray to Goddess Ganges with lights, Conch sounds and bell ringing along with Vedic chants.

dashwameda

The aarti is always carried out facing the river Ganga. It starts by lightning up the multi-tiered brass lamps, along with a well synchronised chanting of mantras and blowing the conch shells. The shells are known to sanctify the atmosphere. The other remaining priests light the incense sticks and offer it to the goddess in a clockwise circle.

Ganga-Aarti-at-Dashashwamedh-Ghat-on-the-banks-of-The-Ganga-Shutterstock.com_

Witnessing the Ganga aarti is no less than a spectacle. The energy around this daily ritual fills your core with peace and tranquillity.

ganga_aarti_as_seen_from_the_boatride_on_the_ganges

 

Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

PC: AirPano.com;VaranasiTourism; Youtube;Indiatimes;

 

Family friendly holidays

Summer-Family-Holidays-Family-on-the-Beach

Summer is just a few months away. It’s about time to plan that vacay with the family. Travelling with your wee ones need not just be mainly resorted to theme parks. Some ccities make great getaways—short or long—for families. They are hubs for direct flights, ample accommodations, top-notch restaurants and iconic, innovative attractions as well as some of them provide a touch of history, making them both educational and fun and appealing to all ages.

So let’s dust off your passport and pack up your kids for adventures in these family-friendly world cities.

Orlando

disney

Why it’s great for kids: Orlando’s an absolute paradise for kids of all ages, with home to not one but four action-packed Disney theme parks.

Put it on your itinerary: The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve explored Disney World, as the Kennedy Space Center is just a short drive from Orlando. The kid-friendly museum displays America’s space rockets and even lets you touch a piece of moon rock! The museum’s located on Florida’s Space Coast, which boasts tons of gorgeous beaches. However, when it comes to nature, it’s not just sandy shores that impress children and parents alike. Florida’s famous for its marshlands, and the whole family can glide through the swamps on an air boat. Be sure to keep an eye out for gators!

London

londres-legoland

Why it’s great for kids: With a host of historical attractions and many contemporary exhibits, the British capital city just screams ‘kid-friendly’.  There’s no language barrier, the food is kid-friendly (those chips!), and there’s lots to do around one of the major characters of modern childhood—Harry Potter.

Put it on your itinerary: Many of London’s main attractions, like the Tower of London and the British Museum, are geared to be family-friendly, so they’re incredibly interesting for both you and your little ones. Your kids will love spotting red telephone boxes, exploring Tower Bridge and following the River Thames as it meanders across the capital. If any of you are Harry Potter fans, you’ll all be in your element at the Warner Bros Studio Tour; and just outside of the city are theme parks like Lego land and Chessington World of Adventures which are easily accessible by public transport. There are also plenty of whimsically themed high tea experiences (try the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson) and endless free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Cancun

cancun

Why it’s great for kids: You’ll get the best of both worlds — a bustling city culture and a beach vacation.

Put it on your itinerary: Parque de Palapas, the city’s central park, offers food carts, performances, and the kiddo essential, playgrounds. Mercado 28 is a bustling marketplace where you and the kids can bargain for local treasures to bring home. Isla de Mujeres lets you get away from the city’s hustle and bustle with a trip out to this laid-back island just off the coast — the Garrafon Reef Park there lets you swim with dolphins or stingrays or take a ride on a zip line. When you’re not busy lazing on the beach, make sure you head out to tour Chichén Itzá, the Mayan Ruins nearby.

Copenhagen

copen

Why it’s great for kids: Denmark’s capital is literally a fairy-tale city — it’s where Hans Christian Andersen wove his classics, like The Little Mermaid. And if your kids are even mildly Lego-obsessed, they’ll probably be thrilled at a chance to visit the country where the blocks were first created.

Put it on your itinerary: Copenhagen is home to the Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s amusement parks. With gorgeous gardens and architecture and one of the world’s oldest still-in-use wooden roller coasters the Tivoli gardens, with rides and games, is an awesome place to take kids of all ages, and adults that want to indulge the kid in them! There are roller coasters for older children and kiddie rides for wee ones. And if your children don’t like rides, there are musical performances and pantomimes to enjoy. When it’s lit up at night, the park is a joy to stroll through.

Other than Tivoli Gardens, children will enjoy viewing the statue of the Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and posing for a photo with her. Watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace is wonderful. And if you and your family are looking for a green space to enjoy, the King’s Garden is the ideal place to go. You can picnic on the grounds and enjoy some chill time here. Copenhagen is a fun destination and very family-friendly.

Dubai

dubai

Why it’s great for kids: Full of architectural superlatives, the Emirate with the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), vastest sand desert, and largest mall, is great for adventure, relaxation, and even good old-fashion theme park fun.

Put it on your itinerary: The city isn’t all fancy cars and glittering skyscrapers (although there are plenty of both). It’s also home to adventures your kids (and you!) will love, from feeding a three-foot-wide turtle at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project to catching a free show at Dubai’s massive musical fountains. Once you venture outside the city limits, there are camel rides, sand skiing (think of it as hot-weather sledding!), and dune-bashing (where your Jeep guns it over sand hills, so you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster) through the Arabian Desert. Check in at Atlantis The Palm for loads more family-friendly activities: There’s the Middle East’s largest water park, an aquarium holding more than 65,000 creatures, and evening programming for kids age 3-12  You can also explore the souks of Old Dubai where you can shop for textiles, spices, and even gold on the streets alongside the Dubai Creek.

Sydney

Sydney

Why it’s great for kids: Sydney is one of the most family friendly cities in Australia. The city has plenty of things to do for all the ages. For the smaller kids, there are extraordinary zoos, great aquariums, wildlife parks, plenty of playgrounds and there is even a Luna Park as well.

Put it on your itinerary: Admit it: You’ve always wanted to visit Australia. If your kids are old enough to make it through the long plane ride out there, now’s the time: There’s plenty to make you feel like a giddy little kid, from being blown away by the Scienceworks Museum to checking out the march of the penguins at Phillip Island to seeing the forest and fern gullies from the century-old Puffing Billy Steam Railway. There is a ferry trip on the Sydney Harbour, iconic Sydney Opera House to explore, Darling Harbour, tonnes of museums, Blue Mountains, beautiful beaches and even a Haunted Sydney walking tour to check out. Sydney Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 marine animals, including dugongs (sea cows). And there are a ton of ways to see Sydney’s sights, whether you and your family venture up to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or Skywalk on a glass-floored platform above the city.

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The fact is that kids — even young ones — love traveling for the same reasons we do: They get to have a new routine, spend time with the people they love, and eat fun snacks. Plus the parents get to experience places that can make them feel like a child again, which is gratifying.

 

-M

 

 

PC:Pinterest;WaltDisney;VisitLondon;LonelyPlanet

 

Azerbaijan-Is it on your bucket list?

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“Where?” Azerbai… “What?”

If you plan to visit Azerbaijan, prepare to answer that question.  A lot. No one seems to know where Azerbaijan is.

Well to brush up on your geography, Azerbaijan is in Central Asia. With Russia to the north, Iran to the south, The Caspian Sea to the east, Armenia and Georgia to the west.

Having said that comes the inevitable follow-up question “Why?”

Now this is the interesting one.

Why would you want to go to Azerbaijan, a place with the conviction of a bright future, a place of development, a place of natural beauty, a place no one really knows anything about?

So here’s the thing. On the cusp of a tourism boom, Azerbaijan is one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world.

Azerbaijan is a little bit weird. It’s like Rome, it’s like Paris, and it’s like London- a charming mix of architectural styles, genuinely beautiful buildings that line the city’s traffic-choked streets.

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Stroll into the centre of Baku, and its appeal reveals itself, in its most impressive sight, the Flame Towers.

Inspired by Azerbaijan’s nickname, the “Land of Fires”, these three flame-shaped towers dominate the skyline, and have become something of a national symbol since they appeared in 2012. By night, huge LED displays give the appearance of flames licking the sides of the buildings.

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The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre fills you with an absolute “WOW” when you see it. Being one of the most recognized architectural landmarks worldwide, the Centre is one of the signature architectural landmarks of modern Baku. It is perfection. This building is one of the pinnacles of modernity. It flows in all directions in line with how a natural landscape should be. And no matter where you stand as you walk around it, it looks completely different in shape.

Azerbaijan also has money. At the bottom of one of the Flame Towers there’s a Lamborghini shop. Wander around near the lake and you’ll find names like Gucci, Tom Ford, Bulgaria and Tiffany slapped across the storefronts.

All set to bill itself as the “new Dubai” Azerbaijan has relaxed its tight entry requirements, allowing tourists to apply online for an e-visa rather than post passports to an embassy. More than two million people are now venturing to the country each year.

Some will come to experience a rich culture that finds its expressions in food, and in the intricately woven carpets. More still will come to wander through Baku’s charming Old Town, with its 1000-year-old Maiden Tower and its ancient history. There are some who will come here for the natural beauty alone.

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Also the Azeris boast that their country is home to nine of the world’s 11 climate zones, from semi-desert in the central lowlands to rainforests in the northern hills and Alpine tundra in the Greater Caucasus.

You can scuba dive in the Caspian Sea, sun yourself on a beach, or ski in resorts in the nation’s north.

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Azerbaijani food, with its mix of influences from Iran, Turkey and Georgia, may be still unfairly anonymous on the world scene, but it’s definitely tantalizing the taste buds with its rich and traditional cuisine. And how can you forget about the caviar. Famed beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea is treasured here and regulated even more zealously than oil – however, walk into any market and you’ll hear soft calls of “caviar, caviar” from black market sellers seeking to offload their goods.

An Eastern country with a Western outlook, it’s capital city ,Baku is known as the Pearl of the Caucasus. Combining history, culture and modernity, the vibrant city offers a safe and attractive setting along the Caspian Sea. From outdoor activities, phenomenal shopping experiences, luxury hotels, and beautiful venues and locations for weddings and honeymoons, Azerbaijan is a perfect destination for couples, families, and friends.

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You would definitely want to ‘Take another look’ and say ‘salaam’ to Azerbaijan, as the country rolls out the hospitality red carpet to unveil its incredible revelations and attractions. I know I want to.

M

 

PC:AzerNews;LonelyPlanet;TripAdvisor;CultureTrip

 

 

Incredible India

incredible india

The sun filtered in through the windows. Far in the distance, the temple bells mingled with the call for Namaaz at the mosques. A new dawn in the cramped streets and lanes of India is coming alive.

India,  the oldest civilization in the world, including 4 major religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism.

India, a unique destination, which offers a mystic experience of combining business with leisure and networking with tourism.

India, a kaleidoscope of spirituality, philosophy, culture, heritage, architecture, science, and technology.

India, a country which does not believe in the term “personal space.”

India, where you’ll find traffic jams, cows walking the busy street, wedding party’s dancing in the midst of the traffic, and a political parade all happening on the same narrow street .

India, overwhelmingly diverse. It’s people multi lingual. It’s food assorted, lip smacking and extremely tasty.

India, a melting pot of tradition with modernism, offering a unique blend of the old with the new. Welcoming each tourist with warm hospitality into its rich tapestry of culture without any discrimination of race, religion, caste or colour. ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ ( the guest is God) a slogan that we follow with our hearts and minds

From the mountains to the beaches, from the forts to the palaces and everything in between, there is so much to explore, discover, and see here.

India: Incredible. Intriguing. Historic. Beautiful. Mesmerizing. Mystifying.

 

 

 

Beach baby or a Mountain monk?

beach

And this debate will be on for times to come!

This one will never have fair voting. Both locations have huge appealing qualities, and yet every person will have a strong preference for one over the other.

According to a study carried out in University of Virginia it has been revealed that being an extrovert or an introvert actually has an association with deciding the geographical location of their choice of destination.

In fact many writers have traced down a significant way to decide that people who love the beach are more outgoing, energetic and extroverts, while the ones who love the mountains are romantic, self-reserved and introverts! Which is quite an interesting perception, don’t you think?

For example, the beach may sound like an alluring place to be what with its perfectly tanned humans sipping margaritas with pretty hats and laying with umbrella sheds and unwinding near the blue ocean watching the sunset or just calming  your nerves, all by yourself . But then that does sound like the attributes of the introverts, doesn’t it?

So when you ask people what would they choose more, beach or mountains? Trust me, they couldn’t choose!  I believe most can’t, especially the ones who dream to travel the whole world.

You simply cannot frame one attribute to the entire population, each with their emotional pattern and life. But according to me, although there are so many factors deciding your destination, you will eventually go by the calling of your soul at that point of time.

So the question is more like Who You Are, NOW?

What is calling you more, right NOW?

I cannot talk for the rest of you here but I can definitely say this about me though. I just love, love, love being near the beach.

Just watching the horizon expands my mind to the realization of how small I am in the greater scheme of things.

I could spend my days near a beach doing a whole lot of creative stuff or sometimes nothing at all just gazing inwards.

Take Goa for instance, I am never ever tired of going there again and again. It’s always my ‘go to’ destination when I can think of no other.

sinquerim

Whether you are looking for the quieter beaches of  Candolim and Sinquirem , in North Goa , with its hip happening and crazy night life ,or  Benaulim beach in South Goa, with  groovy  music playing in most of its bars and pubs , Goa has it all sorted.

nigh goa

And then there are some days when the mountain beckons. The cool and crisp mountain air, an off-the-beaten path in the natural wonder, or a new adventure trekking the narrow pathways amidst the tall trees sounds very appealing. My last mountain vacay was when my sisters and I went to Lake Tahoe couple of years back.

mt Tallac

We took a 5 mile trek through Van Sickle Bi-State Park which offered hiking on both sides of the California-Nevada border and stunning panoramic views of the South Shore. The views of the lake and the peaks of Mt. Tallac were stunning.

The other trip ,although taken years back is still fresh in my mind. The trek through the lush green forests of Dhanaulti , a small town near Mussoorie, nestled amid the lofty Himalayan peaks, is something that is forever remembered.

Dhanaulti

Irrespective of whether you choose to travel to a beach or the mountains, it’s all about satiating your wanderlust. As long as you are with like minded people, or even alone for that matter, you can enjoy both the experiences, the all night party at the beach or the early morning vision of watching the sunrise from the top of the mountain.

 

🙂

 

What’s your take on this? Do reply in the comments.

 

 

 

PC: Travellersjoy; UttarakhandTourism; GoaTourism

Don’t let hidden costs ruin your holiday.

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Holidays are something everyone looks forward to. My family loves to travel and there is always a budget we have in mind before taking the flight out.

So if ever we are suddenly burdened with additional expenses and unforeseen costs, it irks us. Which is why it’s best to do some research, and read the fine print to build some extra padding in our travel budgets, so we can tide over those pesky hidden costs without ruining our holiday?

  • Reservation

Booking a reservation for your flight or hotel online is so common place now. But whenever you may need to speak to an agent for some clarity on your booking or finding out other details such as booking attractions/car rentals they may often charge you. Much of the times this gets included in your billing as other expenses /taxes and often goes unnoticed. Make sure you know this beforehand.

Tip: Call for clarification or to ask any questions, but book online either directly with the airline or through a third-party site like Expedia or Booking.com. Just check the total price to make sure there’s no booking fee.

  • Refund

Man proposes and God disposes. So many times we have had to cancel plans last minute due to other obligations. And then you either re book or cancel the trip completely and that’s when you end up paying hefty cancellation charges which could be almost close to the actual price of your ticket.

Tip: Some OTA’s offer a 24-hour flexible booking period, during which you can get a refund or change your flight/ hotel without penalty or incurring cancellation charges.

  • Miles

Frequent flyer programs seem to offer great deals, but they’re not so great if you have to pay extra fees for your “free flight”. In addition to fuel charges and airport fees, some airlines will charge you just to use the miles.

Tip: Avoid the fee by booking early or using miles from an airline that doesn’t have time constraints.

  • Extra baggage

Often we get carried away when shopping abroad. Make sure you are within the permissible limits of weight for you checked and cabin baggage lest you end up paying a huge amount of excess baggage charges. Some carriers in the US also charge a rate of $25 upwards per piece of baggage checked in the economy class.

 Tip: Buy yourself a luggage scale to save the hassle by checking if your luggage is overweight in advance. If your luggage is already overweight then you can adjust some things in your carry on baggage before you get to the airport or take out the extra stuff you don’t need at home instead of having to deal with it at the airport.

  •  Currency exchange

Will you exchange money before you travel or use your card to get money out of the ATM when you arrive? Do your research beforehand to ensure you get the best exchange rate. Using ATM’s abroad generally always incurs extra transaction fees each time you withdraw cash. Although some credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, its better you check with the bank beforehand.

Tip: It’s best to travel with a credit card or cash card when travelling abroad as most establishments accept credit/debit cards.

eur-usd-hero

  • Getting to and from the airport

Check if the hotel you are staying at provides pick up and drop service from /to the airport. Make sure to check if its chargeable or part of the package.

Most cities also have public transportation such as bus or train that offer a 2 or 3 or 7 day pass which can be used both for bus and train for easy accessibility.

 

off peak

Tip: Downloading the Uber or a similar app for taxis on your smartphone is the best way to getting around in a new place.

  • Departure Fees

Most departure fees are included in your plane ticket, but not all!  There are quite a few countries that charge a departure fees even if it is not your final destination. These fees may add up quickly, especially if you are travelling to a number of places.  Find out from the airline that you are travelling with if there is any departure fees associated with your flights.

Tip: Keep some currency aside to pay for Departure tax

  • Water

Airport security is too tight to let you bring your water into the boarding area, so if you get thirsty at the gate, you can end up spending $4 or more for a bottle of water.

Have you ever noticed that vending machine prices go up after you go through security? The airport vendors know that you have limited options, and they’ll charge you accordingly. Although you can always get a complimentary beverage on the plane, but sometimes you are either too thirsty or too embaraased to ask for water often served in the small cups again and aigan

Tip: You can’t bring the water in, but an empty bottle is just fine. Pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag, and fill it at a water fountain near your gate.

  • International Roaming Charges

You may or may not plan to make calls back home to family using international roaming. Ever since Whatsapp has included calling through its app it’s become very convenient to use data to make those calls . But you never know when you might need to make local calls so it’s best to take precautions.  You can save yourself a lot of time and effort and money if you contact your service provider and select a plan that allows you international roaming for calls and data use. That way you can ensure if you need to use your phone you won’t be hit with a bill that costs more than your entire holiday.

Tip: Check with your telecom service provider for rates/ plans on international roaming and buy/activate it before you leave your home country.

  • Room Service and Mini Bars

Room service and minibars are an expensive way of having the luxury of food and drink in your hotel room, some hotels have sensors in the fridge so if you even move anything you will be charged for it.  Make sure you always have a few snacks and a bottle of water (bought from the local store) in your room so you don’t get a massive mini bar bill after your stay!

Tip: Find a supermarket nearby to stock up on bottles of water/ snacks .

Hotel-minibar

  • Resort Fee

Believe it or not, many hotels will charge what is known as a “hotel resort fee” upon checkout. Often, this fee will be an extra 10% per night. Thus, even if you have already prepaid through a site like Expedia or TripAdvisor, you will have to pay an extra 10% when you checkout. It’s essentially a higher nightly rate, hidden in the fine print.

Tip: Read the fine print, and remember that all hotels must disclose this fee upon booking. Make sure to consider the fee when you decide if this hotel indeed offers a reasonable rate.

  • Tipping

Eating out at any restaurant could be extra costly depending on what country you are in, the rules relating to tipping are different and before you know it you could have spent a small fortune on service charges.

Tip: Usually anywhere between 15-20% of the bill is followed in most countries.

  • WiFi

Nobody can do without WiFi anymore. Make sure to check out the WiFi rates at your hotel while checking in. Is WiFi included in your hotel for free or is there a daily charge?  If WiFi isn’t included it might be more economical to get a data plan before hand rather than hunting around for  a free internet café or paying hefty bills on your return.

Tip: Free WiFi ranks #1 in the list of desired hotel amenities. Check out the list of amenities before you book the room. I suggest you ask your telecom service provider to suggest a plan for data roaming.

A dollar or two here may not seem like a big deal, and even a twenty dollar fee there might just sound like something you have to tolerate. But guess what? You don’t.

In the end, you can’t get out of all of these expenses, but you can adjust your planning accordingly.

hidden

-Madhavi

 

PC: Citypress;Matador;FairFX;Tripadvisor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Tourism

queens necklace

Mumbai’s Marine Drive has a curvy, 3.6 km long boulevard and is perhaps, one of the most famous landmarks in the city.

Popularly known as the Queen’s Necklace,  when the coastline gets lit up in the evenings, is an essential on every tourist’s itinerary or for that matter even the locals as they love taking a casual stroll around the periphery of the Marine Drive or simply sitting by the Arabian sea watching the sunset.

However, the same Marine Drive is now in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. Recently the Arabian Sea washed up more than two lakh kilograms of garbage on the shoreline after the recent high tide.

mumbai

Needless to say, it was the same litter that people tossed in the sea and other water bodies.

However, Mumbai is not the only city that has been grappling with the issue of sea pollution. In 2018, the Great Pacific Garbage, a long stretch of area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, created waves on the internet for the shocking amount of garbage it contains that is choking all the marine life.

pacific

All this reiterates that it is high time both tourists as well as local citizens and government bodies , take the responsibility  to maintain the sanctity of the destinations specially those that are abundant in natural resources and find ways and means to reduce the impact of ecological degradation.

The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. The Aayog supports a cooperative federal structure where the Center and the States prepare development policies together.

Under its vision documents for 2017-2024, one of the focuses is on the impacts of mass tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) in particular.

NMSHE

IHR is significant for India. Stretching for about 2,400 kilometres, the IHR extends from the Indus River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. It covers 10 mountain states and four hill districts of India that make up the country’s north and north-eastern borders.

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh , Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya , Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal are the part of the IHR.

IHR also shares borders with six neighbouring countries (China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)

Springs

With its towering snow-laden peaks, majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Indian Himalayan Region has regularly drawn visitors and pilgrims from the Indian sub-continent and across the world. Every year an average of about 100 million tourists visit the ecologically sensitive area which is home to about 50 million people.  This number will soon be touching the 240 million mark in seven years, putting a huge pressure on the state’s natural resources.

himalayas

Some of the proposals of NITI aayog in promotion of Sustainable Tourism in IHR are:-

  • Disaster management and Pollution control (including Climate Change)
  • Visitor Control Mechanism to track the number of visitors every year.
  • Tourist Traffic Management Mechanism to forecast and manage vehicular traffic in the destination.
  • Recommended introduction of a “green cess” from consumers to increase tax revenue and assist in maintaining critical services
  • A zero waste policy to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.
  • Mapping and revival of springs across the Himalayas
  • Ensuring that infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and road and rail networks in forest areas are ecologically friendly.
  • Controlling decibel levels (No loud talking or music in protected areas).
  • Resource and Ecology management mechanism, to conserve biology as well as, restore ecology for better management of natural resources and biodiversity.

himalayan-glacier

Tourism is a very complex industry involving numerous stakeholders and requiring significant amount of resources. As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems.

The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Credits : NITI Aayog
PC;NDTV;Reddit;wwf.org.au;Countercurrents.org;NMSHE; Downtoearth.org;