Instagram makes it easier for us to relive some of our favourite travel experiences. Food, friends, sun, and sand – our adventures captured in a photo and saved in a digital shared space.
Studies claimed that millennials are more willing to spend on experiences than buying souvenirs or luxury items. These experiences are treated as social currency. Therefore, the more unusual the experience, the better.
A different survey revealed that 97% of millennial travellers post on social networks and share experiences while travelling.
Experienced marketplace Klook unveils the 10 most photographed travel experiences this year. Klook’s list of most photographed travel experiences is based on data from their Asia activities. They analyzed activities with the highest ratio of photo reviews between January and September 2018.
Let’s play a game and see how many have you checked.
10 – Aqua Luna Evening Sail in Hong Kong
As one of Hong Kong’s last remaining traditional junk boats, the red-sailed Aqua Luna offers unique angles of the skyline as it cruises around the harbour.
9 – Wearing Hanbok in Seoul
Kpop fans flock to South Korea’s capital and wear the traditional Korean clothing as worn during celebrations, it is a must.
8 – Sompong Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok
Located in Silom, guests get to visit local markets to hand-pick their own ingredients, all the while learning about the city’s culinary history.
7 – Day Trip to Jiufen in North Taipei
From Yehliu Geopark to hillside teahouses and the quaint village of Jiufen that inspired the classic animated film Spirited Away.
6 – Forbidden City in Beijing
Specifically, hall of Supreme Harmony with its imperial architecture, the imposing building is best captured in the early morning before the crowds roll in. The popular landmark has a daily quota of 80,000 people.
5 – Kayaking in Sai Kung
This UNESCO-listed park is home to towering mountains, clear water, and rugged adventures like the bell-shaped caves of Jin Island. Easily accessible from the frenetic city, this island-hopping outing offers a dramatic contrast to the usual ultra-urban Hong Kong travel experience.
4 – Elephant Day Care at Chiang Mai Mountain Sanctuary
Get up-close and personal with these gentle giants. Among the many activities, visitors will learn how to bathe, feed and groom the elephants.
3 – Banteay Chhmar in Cambodia
A hidden gem in northwestern Cambodia, the mesmerizing “Citadel of Cats” temple complex has been described as one of the country’s most beautiful forgotten Khmer ruins.
2 – Seaside Day Tour in Kyoto
Multiple Instagram-worthy sites such as such as the pine-covered Amanohashidate sandbar, Ine no Funaya dock houses, and Miyama Kayabuki-no-Sato farmhouses.
1 – Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour in Seoul
Looks dangerous? This travel experience is Instagram gold. The DMZ’s popularity taps into a growing trend toward experiential, historic and culture-driven travel around the region. With this experience, travellers can glean historical insight into the region’s turbulent past and peer across the 38th parallel into mysterious North Korea from atop the Dora Observatory.
Instagram makes it easier for us to relive some of our favourite travel experiences. Food, friends, sun, and sand – our adventures captured in a photo and saved in a digital shared space.
For this week’s podcast I spoke to the CEO and founder of Keyocoin Matt Baer, about making a real-world application for blockchain, solving the difficulties of the fragmented nature of the global points and rewards programme. This is a redacted version of that conversation. Baer speaks:
At Keycoin, we are building universal travel rewards on the blockchain but our platform started as a platform to share trusted recommendations. I’m a big foodie and I love to travel – our team is full of foodies and travellers – and we set out to solve a few problems that a lot of successful startups wanted to solve: if you look at a Yelp or TripAdvisor you’re reading reviews from people you don’t know and can’t trust.
We want be able to open it up anywhere in the world and see only trusted recommendations from local experts. There was also no way to thank them, to tip them or have them monetise the recommendations.
Fast-forward in the story: we had hundreds of thousands of curated recommendations from all over the world. We heard about an accelerator program called Startup Chile – run by the economic arm of the Chilean government. What was interesting about their program is that they give equity-free grants away.
We ended up beating out, I think, around 12 teams from all over the world to win their first equity free grant and that that took my journey from Argentina to Chile where we started building the team.
Chile is unlike Silicon Valley, where usually it’s all about getting millions of users and monetising later – Chile is really focused on early monetisation.
We ended up selling a ‘recommendations as a service’ – a RAAS product not a SAAS product – in the hotels; we told them ‘You know people are coming to your hotel but they don’t know where to go, or what to do and they don’t want to spend the time figuring it out.’
So we created this product where, essentially, they can text our service at any time and find curated recommendations from our database of local experts from all over the world, who have spent all their time trying to find the best places.
Matt BaerOnce we were in the hospitality space we found out a few things: hotels want branded mobile apps – this has become very trendy.
Why do they want this? Because they want to figure out how to not only provide better customer service for their clients but to figure out how they can monetize their services and amenities and put them on demand.
You can increase exposure but the most important thing for the hotels is that they wanted more direct bookings – that’s the number one thing.
Blockchain That took us on the path of where we are today in launching Keyocoin ‘universal travel rewards cryptocurrency built on the blockchain’ to solve lots of the problems that we found in the hospitality space, such as with loyalty rewards.
Every time a change occurs on the blockchain – say I send you some cryptocurrency perhaps the Keyocoin token to reward you for staying in my hotel – is written into the database of encrypted data.
The big revelation about blockchain is the fact it is extremely difficult to run a truly universal rewards programme [with a traditional system]; it would mean trusting hundreds of thousands of independent travel businesses to all keep their own record of how many points have been given out how many have been received. It would be virtually impossible to prevent some merchants from simply printing points.
“What good is giving away loyalty points to a customer that will never come back?”
The begs the question of why do we need universal travel rewards, when businesses can have their own programme? If you’re a hotel or an airline with a global footprint this makes sense for a small mom-and-pop tour company in Florence what good is giving away loyalty points to a customer that will never come back?
Rewards that can be used all over the world allow users to be part of a huge ecosystem where customers want tokens and are incentivised to earn them because they can spend them on their next trip. There’s no value to a customer that doesn’t come back.
Current rewards that you get on one airline are isolated to their specific products a lot of time. It’s the same with hotels, so you get expiration issues and you cannot share points… If I stay at a hotel here in Chile and then I go to LA and I want to use those points at an independent hotel I usually can’t.
We’re working on something that we can solve right now. We are awarding people with something they can use globally – what we’re also doing with Keyocoin is powering independent travel businesses offering a platform where they can promote their business by setting up fun challenges for potential customers.
So let’s say that you’re an independent tour provider down in Los Angeles and you’re running a Hollywood tour. You would set up a travel challenge to go down to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and take a photo on your phone with Jackie Chan’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hashtagging their business to promote their business and they would reward you with points
It gives folks a real-world way to get folks into cryptocurrency and the whole blockchain movement without actually buying anything; you’re doing free challenges set up by our merchants and and winning Keyocoin which can be used all over the world.
Travel merchants like it because unlike a cash-back system or a points system that a lot of people don’t even see – it’s a mystery; it just ends up on your card – it allows people to promote their business to their networks right so you’re winning on both sides.
“You can actually use it in the real world”
There’s a lot of people in crypto but the question is how do you get people into it and really using it in real life? We are looking to launch Keyocoin publicly; we already have a marketplace built out so you can actually use it in the real world. In the crypto space people are launching tokens and they haven’t built anything; they just have a white paper.
The marketplace Keyocoin is going to be a platform – think of a Facebook where other developers are going to be able to take the protocols that we build and integrate that into their products.
The first app is called Keyopass and it houses the challenges and local experiences that span 12 over 12,000 products across seven countries. You can go into the app and and purchase a lot of these products with Fiat – regular currency Euro USD or Euro right now. We want to launch the full product in the first quarter of next year.
We have tons of tour activity and local experience providers already on board we have different people in the travel ecosystem that want to sponsor these travel challenges. If you go to Keyocoin.com the travel challenge is up. We’re continuing to build product and our community and we’re working on an upcoming initial coin offering (ICO) and its tokenomics and token architecture.
There’s a real space to be one of the first coins that is actually being used – there are 1200-1500 cryptocurrencies but it’s frankly hard to name one on the consumer side. We put together a team and advisors that cross over from not just blockchain and cryptocurrency but into the world of consumer adoption:
We brought on Federico Pistono, head of blockchain at Hyperloop and early Ethereum investor – he was featured in the Banking on Bitcoin famous documentary on Netflix. But we also have people from the consumer side to make sure that we’re building something that people use, for example Rick Savage who’s the head of social media at Apple.
Adoption We see our token as a catalyst to try to get rid of some of the intermediaries in travel that are taking high commissions. Independent hotels all around the world are getting killed by OTA commissions but our stance is that where blockchain technology stands right now, you don’t need to have a decentralised solution to get rid of commission – you could do that on a centralised website.
Having that alone to us isn’t the big blockchain win. What we say is that in order to get rid of the middleman you have a business model around doing that in our model is revolves around travel rewards again being a catalyst to then be able to get rid of the intermediaries, get rid of the GDS and you will be able to drive more direct bookings to independent travel businesses, hotels and other providers.
Leading with just ‘blockchain getting rid of the middleman’ is not a really strong stance as of now it doesn’t have a model based around it – with our you know token we do.
UAE’s flourishing new tourism destination, Ajman is aiming at UK inbound tourism with the launch of its first its first overseas office there.
Scott Marketing has been appointed to introduce the destination to the UK travel trade. He will educate and work with both front line travel agents and tour operator partners about what the destination can offer the UK and Irish consumer, and also why it is a better choice as compared to its emirati neighbours.
A new tourist hub Just a 30-minute drive from Dubai airport, Ajman is emerging as a tourism destination, with a host of developments and hotel openings, retail expansions and a wide selection of new indoor and outdoor activities helping to put the emirate on the map.
The last year has seen the opening of a number of hotels including the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah; the Radisson Blu Hotel Ajman; and the Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche.
With a million square metres of mangrove forest and lagoons, Al Zorah Nature Reserve was designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. The area is home to an incredible variety of marine and plant life, and to approximately 58 species of birds, including the pink flamingo. It is located within Al Zorah community, a development with 12 kilometres of waterfront and 1.6 kilometres of natural sandy beaches where visitors can explore with guided kayak tours of the mangroves, creeks and lagoons.
With a growing number of restaurants and hotels, Ajman’s centre offers an array of dining choices including local and traditional cuisine and food festivals that will celebrate local food. One new addition is the Marsa Ajman Floating Restaurant, which offers tourists magnificent views of the mangroves during a two-hour culinary cruise through Ajman Marina. There are also a number of luxury hotels and restaurants near and along Ajman Corniche, a four-kilometre-long esplanade overlooking the Arabian Gulf. In the future, visitors will be able to enjoy Marsa Ajman; a prominent development conveniently located near hotels, which will have a mix of retail outlets, entertainment options, cafes and restaurants, and an incredible view of the Marina.
There has also been continued development in terms of projects that celebrate the heritage of Ajman. Ajman Museum is an 18th century fort with artefacts and exhibits that offer an insight into the emirate’s culture and history. Souq Saleh is the place to visit for traditional clothing, the Gold Souq sells both gold and silver jewellery, and there are daily auctions at the Fish Market. The Ajman Pearl Journey is a unique edutainment experience, teaching visitors about the rich history of the pearling industry in the Arabian Gulf region. A Dhow Cruise on a traditional wooden ship offers another interesting way to experience Ajman.
“Introduce our destination to the UK market”
H.E. Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, director general of Ajman Tourism commented: “We are delighted to be working with Scott Marketing to introduce our destination to the UK market. Ian’s wealth of experience in both the UAE and destination marketing will prove invaluable in raising awareness of Ajman and our tourism offering.”
“A great opportunity for the UK and Irish travel trade”
Ian Scott commented: “The emirate of Ajman offers a great opportunity for the UK and Irish travel trade and I look forward to supporting our tour operator and travel agent partners, developing a deeper understanding of the destination. It is extremely exciting to be working with this amazing and lesser known emirate and to be able to utilise my contacts, experience and knowledge of the UAE having spent so many years representing Dubai.”
Scott Marketing was set up in June of this year by Ian Scott. Scott has been in the travel industry for over 20 years, with eight of these spent as the UK Director for Dubai Tourism and more recently two years representing Dubai Parks and Resorts. Scott has also worked with Trinidad and Tobago, Nassau Paradise Island, First Choice Holidays and Disney.
With travel trends constantly in flux, recent habits have seen tourists swapping their sun loungers and beach beds for city breaks as well as the now ubiquitous adrenaline-fuelled experience.
Search marketing agency Red Hot Penny has pulled together the latest research from across the tourism sector to create a 2019 travel trends guide.
Doing it “for the ‘Gram” 40% of millennials (18-33 year olds) now take social media into consideration when choosing holiday destinations. Even the chance to post local delicacies in exotic locations on platforms like Instagram is influencing millennials’ choices.
Booking tech company TrekkSoft identified a growing increase in travel to obscure destinations for millennials, who are sharing their experience as part of an ‘aspirational’ social media culture – making unexplored locations a perfect choice.
Russ Powell, head of marketing at Red Hot Penny commented: “It’s more important than ever to get social right, especially as the UNWTO report says that millennial and gen Z travel will increase to 300 million trips a year by 2020.
“Successful travel brands will use influencers who share their values and ideals to build trust on social, and capitalise on video. 4.1 million videos are watched every minute on YouTube alone, making it the ideal medium to capture a young audience.”
(Data pulled from Google search trends analysis)
Taking a trip to give back The UN called 2017 the ‘International Year of Sustainable Tourism’ and it looks set to continue, with a recent AIG report showing that more than half of tourists value sustainability and eco-friendly travel.
Booking.com found over a third (36%) plan to choose more eco-friendly travel options compared to previous years – and nearly 40% are interested in eco-tour experiences.
Concerns around eco-tourism is also driving this trend, while programmes like Blue Planet and a media focus on plastics also shaping travel plans.
Short and sweet? According to ABTA, city breaks are now the most popular trip, making up 53% of holidays last year, finally overtaking beach holidays, after being “head to head” in ABTA’s 2016 report.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have noticed UK tourists are not taking two-week holidays like they were a decade ago. Instead they’re enjoying multiple short holidays from two to seven days. The rise of budget airlines offering cheap flights allows travellers to “fill a gap between longer holidays,” while experiencing a plethora of opportunities just a short hop away.
“Tap into micro-moments”
Powell added: “With 60% of tourists saying budget is a key factor, agents need to be ready for an increase in demand for city breaks. Staying ahead of customer search patterns to tap into micro-moments, for example ‘last minute’ spikes in July and August, will become ever more important.
“Online has become the predominant method for how people book, with mobile rapidly increasing, especially with millennials. Improving the UX and SEO visibility of your mobile site is business critical. With roaming costs currently low in the EU, prepare for travellers searching for things to do on holiday when they are already there.”
Jordan has been emerging as a popular destination with European travellers and low-cost airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet, and Norwegian have all recently taken notice of it. As more and more travellers are eager to visit the Middle East, airlines are providing more efficient and cost-friendly options.
To keep up with the steady flow of tourists and increased demand, Jordan Shuttle, the first service of its kind is now offering a shared shuttle service. The rise of tourism in Jordan also brings a rise in independent travel, specifically as travellers feel safer than in previous years and are eager to explore on their own.
It’s easier than ever to travel to famous sites like the lost city of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wadi Rum Desert, or the impressive capital city, Amman known for its well-preserved ancient Roman ruins and dynamic history.
Direct flights arrive into Queen Alia International Airport in Amman and King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba.
How shuttles will help Shuttles offer a low-cost solution for European tourists arriving via air who are looking for an affordable and convenient transportation option. Jordan Shuttle is operated in coordination with each individual airline meaning that the shuttles are timed with arrival and departures to and from Europe. The shuttles operate seven days a week and are booked online providing peace of mind for arriving or departing tourists while also being a low-cost solution for European tourists.
Jordan Shuttle also assists with travel to the old city of Jerusalem in neighboring Israel, bridging the border between the two countries which can sometimes be challenging to visitors looking to cross. Use of the shuttle service bridges the gap between these major sites making them more accessible and providing reliable and safe options for independent travellers.
Main Connections offered from Jordan Shuttle include:
Amman Airport – Amman Aqaba Airport – Aqaba Aqaba Airport/Aqaba City – Eilat Hotels Amman – Petra Amman – Jerusalem According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, “The Middle East [too] has been a buoyant market for the travel and tourism industry” and according to estimates, tourism and travel in the Middle East is projected to reach USD 165.3 billion by the year 2025.
“Travellers are eager to learn more about this dynamic destination and are preparing to visit in the coming year. As the 2018 winter season quickly approaches, travel experts in the region are ready to welcome European travellers and show them all that Jordanian hospitality has to offer.”
Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton’s flagship brand, has revealed its take on the new Seven Urban Wonders of the World.
The list was crowdsourced using influencers with a combined reach of more than 3.5 million. The shortlisted wonders were analysed and validated by Hilton’s travel tech partner LikeWhere, after crowdsourcing suggestions from travellers worldwide.
Using the travel preferences of holidaymakers aged 18-35, the software was able to shortlist the locations that scored highest against criteria encompassing local cuisine, architecture, heritage and culture, diversity, activities available and Instagrammability.
Below are the seven urban wonders of the world according to Hilton that you should add to your bucket list.
1. Louvre, Abu Dhabi
Since opening in 2017, the Louvre, Abu Dhabi has instantly become one of the best art galleries in the world, featuring impressive installations such as Animals, Between Real and Imaginary and Japanese Connections: The Birth of Moden Décor.
2. Sydney Opera House, Sydney
The iconic Sydney Opera House scored high among travellers, not only for its cultural contribution to the city, but also its position as a ‘very Instagrammable’ viewpoint, looking out to Sydney Harbour Bridge.
3. Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
With food and flea markets scoring high on travel preferences, this mega fish market fits the bill for modern travellers. With major changes due to take place in October 2018, this is a wonder set to evolve.
4. Camden Market, London
Another one of the world’s most prominent food and flea markets, Camden Market has always had a rebellious and exciting persona, appealing to younger travellers throughout the decades.
5. The Bund, Shanghai
As one of the city’s most historic features, this mile-long stretch of waterfront features 52 historical structures known locally as the ‘museum of buildings’.
6. Temple Street Night Markets, Hong Kong
The markets are one of the city’s most vibrant meeting points, showcasing cultures, foods and craft goods; a winning combination among modern travellers surveyed.
7. Albertina, Vienna
With history and art galleries continuing to be a major draw when on holiday, Albertina is one of the world’s finest examples. Set in a former Habsburg palace, but with modern, striking extensions, the building is also one of Vienna’s most photographed, with more than 70,000 posts on Instagram.
“Empower today’s experience-driven travellers”
“With more than 575 hotels in some of the most coveted destinations in the world, we wanted to empower today’s experience-driven travellers to identify modern-day travel Wonders – which, as you will see, are much different from the original Seven Wonders of the World,” said Vera Manoukian, senior vice president and global brand head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
“This list is set to inspire both the experienced and novice travellers as they begin to dream about their next global adventure.”
Rugby sevens in Africa is fast becoming a tourism drawcard, attracting spectators travelling from overseas.
According to Judy Lain, Wesgro’s chief marketing officer, rugby sevens has definitely gained popularity over the recent years, pulling in large crowds coming to spectate.
Coralie van den Berg, general Manager of World Rugby African Association, Rugby Africa, explains that increasingly more tournaments are being developed by unions, especially in South and East Africa in partnership with sponsors and broadcasters and, in turn, are contributing to the enhanced popularity of the game.
She adds that the Cape Town Sevens, which is part of the World Series, sells out in a couple of hours, attracting huge crowds, with smaller events across Africa attracting various crowd sizes. The size of the crowd depends on how well the event is promoted and commercialised.
Regional and international fans “Typically in Southern Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have the biggest fan base for sevens,” van den Berg says.
van den Berg further went on saying that a number of new sevens events have been launched in recent years in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Lesotho, all of which have been successful. In December 2017, the City of Cape Town hosted the South African leg of the HSBC Rugby Sevens World Series, which fed millions of rands into Cape Town’s economy.
“Potential with other African events too”
Rugby sevens in Africa is promoting intra-African travel, according to Van den Berg: “African neighbours are definitely travelling to Cape Town for the World Series tournament in December, which is combined with their summer/Christmas break. There is certainly potential with other African events too.”
Apart from regional travellers, Van den Berg believes that African Sevens attracts rugby fans from Europe and America.
Capitalising on popularity
According to Lain, more and more international tourists are visiting Southern and East African countries to watch rugby sevens matches and then, as it is a long-haul destination, adding on an African itinerary.
“Some of the sevens events are hosted in attractive locations to capitalise on tourism potential,” says Van den Berg, using Victoria Falls Sevens and Swakopmund Sevens as examples.
“Cape Town and the Western Cape offer a diverse range of experiences, all within a few minutes or hours of the vibrant city centre. For food lovers, the town of George offers the unique experience to dine with the locals, while the Cape Karoo has the best stargazing in the Southern hemisphere. For the adrenaline seekers, there is shark-cage diving and whale watching,” says Lain.
Van den Berg suggests that international tourists should include Victoria Falls and game reserves of their preference, saying that to capitalise further on these events, a good initiative would be to couple two tournaments back to back in two interesting and not too distant locations over two weekends, and also offer an itinerary in between travelling from one country to the next.
The types of accommodation spectators tend to book range anywhere from large hotels, Airbnbs, guesthouses and so on, explains Van den Berg.
The Italian Embassy, in partnership with VFS Global, inaugurated a new visa application centre in Manama, Bahrain to facilitate processing of Italian visas.
In a joint statement, VFS Global and the Embassy said the new centre will provide greater seamlessness to visa application processing and resident visa applicants in Bahrain need not submit their Schengen visa applications at the Embassy.
The Visa Application Centre run by well-trained professionals will provide secure processing of entry permit requirements in a friendly ambience. Applicants can also opt for the comfort and privacy of a Premium Lounge.
“Choosing Italy as their destination for tourism and business”
H.E Domenico Bellato, ambassador of Italy to the Kingdom of Bahrain, said: “We are very pleased to start a new chapter of cooperation with VFS Global, providing a state-of-the-art service in collecting applications for short-stay visas for travel to Italy and Malta as their main destinations in the Schengen area. We are confident that the new Visa Application Centre will further increase the number of Bahraini citizens and residents in choosing Italy as their destination for tourism and business.”
This is not the first time that Italy has partnered with VFS Global. In February this year, Italy renewed visa processing contracts with VFS Global for four years for Cameroon, Ghana and Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, VFS Global was also awarded a three-year contract to manage Italy visa services to the residents of Libya. Last year, VFS Global also won the mandate to process Italian visas in Kuwait.
Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “The Italian mandate to VFS Global follows a 14-year old relationship with the client government and it is our commitment to provide efficient, secure and convenient visa application services to the residents of Bahrain travelling to Italy and/or Malta as their main destinations in the Schengen area.”
The VFS Global Italy Visa Application Centre in Bahrain is located on 18th Floor, Diplomatic Commercial Office Towers, Building 1565 in Diplomatic Area 317, Manama. Visa applicants can direct their queries and appointment requests to the helpline +973 16199646 or communicate with the centre at [email protected] The VFS Global Italy website can be accessed at www.vfsglobal.com/italy/bahrain
Team Meraki TravelCreating and booking a tailor-made holiday to long-haul destinations ranging from India to South Africa just got easier thanks to new travel brand, Meraki Travel.
Meraki Travel, launched today, is part of DER Touristik UK, also the parent company of Kuoni and specialist brands Carrier, Kirker, CV Villas and Voyage Jules Verne.
The brand is a new concept for tailor-made travel and differs from anything else currently available, making complex tailor-made trips easy and fun to plan, customise and then book online.
The main thing that makes Meraki Travel different is the online itinerary builder, which has been designed to be simple and intuitive with dynamic functionality which allows people to customise a base itinerary.
Where to India is the first destination to launch from Meraki Travel. Other destinations set to launch over the next few months will include South Africa, Kenya & Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Canada and China, with more coming in 2019.
The hotels and experiences have all been carefully curated by the Meraki Travel team in partnership with its destination management companies. In India, the accommodation starts from three-star hotels to character properties and premium and luxury hotels (or in some cases palaces).
There are over 1,200 different variations for India alone, with live pricing changes as the customer goes through the itinerary builder and makes selections. Itineraries can be saved, shared and paid for securely online and travel documents will be saved in the My Meraki section of the site.
Man of the hour Matt Hodgson Portraits. Meraki Travel. Photo by Steve Dunlop [email protected] www.stevedunlop.com +447762084057Meraki Travel is headed by Matt Hodgson, who joined DER Touristik UK earlier this year to lead the business and has more than 20 years’ experience in tailor-made travel having worked for Trailfinders, Travel Nation and the British Exploration Society in commercial, sales and strategic development roles.
Reporting to Derek Jones, CEO DER Touristik UK, Matt leads a team of eight and will be based in new offices in High Street Kensington.
The name Meraki [Murr-ahh-key] is a Greek word used to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.
“A completely new approach to tailor-made travel”
“This is a completely new approach to tailor-made travel and something quite different from anything currently available and we know there is a gap in the market for what we’re creating,” said Derek Jones.
“Creating a tailor-made trip purely online is still a remarkably tricky thing to do, mainly as there are so many elements to get right from the flights, to the hotels, transfers and experiences. Many online brands still direct people to pick up the phone when it comes to booking.”
“Confidence to book bigger ticket items online is growing”
“Yet we know there are customers who, presented with a basic structure, will happily tweak and customise something to their needs. If you look at brands like made.com they’ve made customising things like sofas simple and easy to do by allowing people to choose their model, size, budget, fabrics and we know that confidence to book bigger ticket items online is growing amongst a particular customer base.”
The brand sits separately from Kuoni, which will continue to offer a complete worldwide tailor-made travel collection with a focus on premium hotels, resorts and experiences with quality service throughout.
Yet Meraki benefits from being part of an established travel group, sharing destination management companies who are able to deliver a brilliant guest-experience in the countries they’re travelling to.
“Aim is to have six destinations ready to book”
Derek Jones added: “Meraki signals our ambitious plans to grow the DER Touristik group, which is why we have put a completely separate team in place to lead it. We’re appealing to customers who don’t know or currently consider the Kuoni brand or our other specialist businesses.”
“We’re committed to identifying new opportunities, looking forward at the trends in travel and delivering an outstanding experience when we find something we know fits our vision.”
Matt Hodgson, general manager, Meraki Travel, said: “This has been many months in the making and a concept which we think people are going to love. Having worked in tailor-made travel for the past two decades I know we’ve got a concept that’s got a clear space in the travel market — by the end of the year our aim is to have six destinations ready to book.”
The brand will have a separate marketing team and investment is being made in making the brand highly visible, primarily with a creative digital campaign.
Centara Sandy Beach Resort DanangWith Vietnam growing as destination hot-spot, one location in particular Danang, has been at the vanguard of the nation’s ever-increasing tourist industry. To find out more I sat down with Luke Benbow, general manager at Centara Sandy Beach Resort Da Nang, to talk about why Danang is so special, their MICE moves and more.
TD: Danang has growing more and more popular, why do you think this is?
LB: With the APEC conference in 2017 the destination became a really global destination. The improvements to the international airport gave the destination greater ability to bring in more planes. This helped with the announcement of Qatar flying direct this year. Vietnam is in the top five places to visit in the world today and having Hoi An and the city of Hue in Central, this all makes for a great step into central Vietnam and the many wonders it holds
How does Danang differ from other areas you have worked in?
After many years in Bali and throughout Thailand, I believe the beaches are some of the best in the world. The abundance of fresh seafood in the region, quality of life of the Vietnamese people, the visitors and the great exchange rate against most currencies makes this a destination of choice. We can then talk about the local cuisine which differs from all parts of Vietnam. You just cannot go wrong on any level.
Luke BenbowWhat have been some of the biggest challenges have you encountered in your time at the hotel and how did you overcome them?
The infrastructure in Central is still a little behind the other bigger cities. The airport and its upgrades have helped with tourist numbers and that has taken a little while, but we defiantly see the benefits of it all now. Language barrier is our most common feedback especially in the local tourist areas, bars and restaurants.
Becoming successful in such a thriving market with so much potential, how do you ensure you stick out from the crowd, what makes the property unique?
We are so lucky that the resort sits on five hectares of land with a genuine 700 metre beach front. We offer free services in and around the resort whether they are free guest activities like daily yoga, kids club, other beach activities to shuttle services to Hoi an and Da Nang. The resort has one of the best equipped gyms in town and the award-winning SPA Cenvaree – Centara’s own brand.
What initiatives or projects do you have in place with the local community?
We work very closely with some local businesses and schools. Last year we ran a full linen and clothing drive for the flood victim in Tam Khe. The resort has taken on some students with disabilities in various departments to help them with life and working skills.
Which is your favourite part of the hotel?
The gardens. We have 25 herb and vegetable gardens around the resort giving us fresh chemical free produce. Everything from lettuces, to morning glory lemon grass three varieties of chili, gourd and papayas.
Meetings and events are an important revenue stream for any hotel, can you tell me about your weddings and events offering?
The resort has a great big moonlit garden that can hold up to 200 and the beach is always a perfect setting. If the outside weather is not at its best the resort offers five various meting spaces that can hold as little as 25 or up to 700. We even give you your own love heart sign and tree to plant on that special day, so then you can always come back over the years and see how it has grown.
What are your plans for the future?
The resort is going through some small renovations in our beachside bungalows, which will lift some of our premium rooms — then I am off for a round of golf!