Tag Archives: vietnam

Why More & More Millennials are Using Travel Agents

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Millennials are Turning to Travel Agents for that Personalized Touch

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more millennials come into the office. Recent travel trends pave the way for customized, one-of-a-kind tours. Millennials are independent, they are internet-savvy, and they’re on the lookout for special travel experiences. That’s where travel agents come in.

Travel agents can be a great resource to tap into what’s new and unique in the travel market. We go out of our way to tailor each trip to the client.

A Better Travel Experience

A 2016 study from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) found that 34% of millennial travelers have booked a trip through a travel agent. These days, travelers have tried it all—booked direct, booked online through a third party, consulted travel agents. There’s so much information online, it can be overwhelming to sort through what is genuine and what is merely a cookie-cutter package. Agents know the industry inside and out, and understand what might work according to particular travel styles. Those who have worked with travel agents report a better travel experience overall when tapping into an agency’s resources and know-how.

Great for Groups and Niches 

Millennials also tend to travel in groups more these days than ever. They fly home or abroad for bachelorette parties, reunions, weddings, etc. Agents listen to what clients need and manage accommodation, transportation, fun activities and group discounts.

Agents are also helpful especially for niche travel and exotic locales. Travelers looking to ride a riverboat down the Amazon jungle, take a gastro-tour of Vietnam, swim with the sharks, or enjoy a Namibian safari, would certainly benefit from agents who can offer decades of knowledge, exclusive discounts and a personalized, human touch.

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to speak to one of our travel agents today!

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“The Quiet American” and Other Classics of Southeast Asia

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By Wailana Kalama

Bangkok overtook London last year as the world’s second most popular travel destination!

If you’re joining fellow travelers and heading to Southeast Asia, you’ll need some reading for the plane. Step into these books and understand just a little bit more about what makes this region tick.

Graham Greene, The Quiet American. Travel writer Pico Iyer has long proclaimed a long affinity with Greene: “who, almost in spite of himself, taught me and so many others how to move around the world and even how to hazard trust.” Greene’s most famous novel centers around the relationship between the cynical Brit, Fowler, and the idealist American, Pyle. This book is a fictional essay on the moral ambiguity of love and war, and the impossibility of neutrality. My Favorite Quote: “Innocence is a kind of insanity.”

Aung San Suu Kyi & Alan Clements, The Voice of Hope. An icon of peace and optimism in a corrupted society, Kyi rose to headlines when her country Myanmar opened its borders in 2010. This biography takes the reader directly into the heart of Myanmar and Kyi’s struggle, her optimism, and unfailing commitment to her beliefs. My Favorite Quote: “Saints are sinners who go on trying.”

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

–Aung San Suu Kyi

George Orwell, Burmese Days. I always enjoy reading Orwell, ever-sensitive to the plights of common men. Drawing from his experience as a police officer in 1920s Burma, Orwell’s novel addresses bigotry, racism, and imperialism. My Favorite Quote: “There is nothing like an earthquake for drawing people together. One more tremor, or perhaps two, and they would have asked the butler to sit down at table with them.”

Marguerite Duras, The Lover. Believe it or not, but Duras’ The Lover was the subject of my bachelor’s thesis. A non-traditional spin on a time-honored story, this short book follows an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. It’s all about colonialism, feminine writing, marginalized people, and–if you believe my thesis abstract–a bit of Saïd’s Orientalism thrown in there as well. A chaotic, instinctual and dreamy read. My Favorite Quote: “Very early in my life it was too late.”

Read our earlier post on WIT Agent Nancy’s favorite books to take with you on a trip to Southeast Asia.

Heading to Southeast Asia in 2017? Give us a call! We have the know-how and the connections to land you a trip of a lifetime! call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Travel News: Delta and Alaska Airlines Will End Partnership in May 2017

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Delta and Alaska Airlines Will End Partnership in May 2017
Effective May 1, 2017, Delta and Alaska will no longer have a codeshare agreement, and sales of flights under DL- and AS-coded flight numbers flown on Alaska and Delta aircraft respectively will cease. Additionally, customers of each airline will no longer be able to earn and redeem Delta miles or Mileage Plan miles on flights operated by the other carrier. The carriers will retain an interline agreement, allowing them to continue offering customers ticketing and baggage connectivity.

Port Everglades Receives Federal Authorization to Deepen and Widen Channels
The Port Everglades Navigation Improvements Project has received federal authorization for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with deepening and widening the port’s navigation channels as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act signed into law December 16, 2016. The project is currently in the pre-construction engineering and design phase, and can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes. The project is anticipated to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally resulting from additional cargo capacity. The project could not come at a more crucial time to support the new, larger post Panamax ships now traversing the recently widened Panama Canal. The ability to accommodate larger cruise and cargo ships means the Port will remain a dynamic economic engine in the region.”

Shifting Visa Fees to Vietnam Can Be Confusing
The Chicago Tribune reports a State Department official, the US and Vietnam ratified an agreement last April that permitted Vietnam to issue 12-month, multiple-entry visas to US citizens. The US similarly allows Vietnamese citizens multiple-entry, 12-month visas for short-term business or tourism. It appears though, that the 12-month visas are the only ones available, instead of the former 30-day visa option. And the fee had skyrocketed. The Vietnam Embassy’s website (www.vietnamembassy.us) doesn’t list prices. It simply directs people to an email address and a phone number with multiple extensions. Depending on the embassy the price may range from $80 to $220. Because fees appear to be flexible, it’s a good idea to check with multiple consulates and the embassy for the lowest price. You’ll need to mail your passport and include a prepaid return envelope. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay. Must also have a minimum of 2 empty visa pages. We recommend that you pay the extra fee to work through a reliable Visa Service company. 

British Airways will charge for hot water
BusinessTraveller reports British Airways has confirmed that when the new Buy on Board short-haul service begins in January, “the airline will only provide cups for beverages purchased in flight”. The statement is in line with instructions to crew which state that only “potable water” will be available on request. All food and drink, including soft drinks and tea and coffee will be chargeable, and passengers will not be able to avoid paying simply by requesting hot water, then using their own coffee granules or tea bags. If customers do request a tea cup, then this will be charged “at the retail price regardless of whether a tea bag is required.”

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Royal Caribbean Cruises To Hire Lifeguards
Cruiselawnews reports that RCCL is now advertising that it is hiring lifeguards on its cruise ships. The cruise line posted the availability of the lifeguard position as of December 21, 2016. The posting (below) indicates that the lifeguard “will need to perform rescue of Guests in danger of drowning and be vigilant to potential accidents. Will be trained to administer first aid, CPR, Oxygen & AED as required. This position will open, close, monitor and operate aquatic recreational spaces including but not limited to Swimming Pools, H2O Zones / Splashaway Bay and other designated water attractions . . . ” This reflects a change of position with this cruise line which previously did not employ lifeguards on its cruise ships. Most cruise lines, with the exception of Disney Cruises, do not employ lifeguards on their ships.

App Reveals Wi-Fi Passwords For Airports Worldwide

A handy Google Map created by travel blogger and computer security engineer Anil Polat reveals wifi passwords from airports all around the world and is constantly updated with tips from travelers. As the list has grown in popularity, Polat has turned it into an app called WiFox. By clicking on the planes on the map, you’ll discover that the passwords for various airline lounges are revealed. And if you’re feeling like sharing the knowledge the next time you’re traveling, send on that password. Polat’s WiFox map is updated regularly, based on verified information submitted by travelers. It’s available in iOS, Android, and Google Play.

Bookings Up For New American Duchess Riverboat

American Queen Steamboat Co. reports heavy demand for the inaugural season of American Duchess, its new all-suite paddle-wheeler scheduled to debut on the Mississippi in June. American Duchess offers three 550-square-foot owner’s suites, four 550-square-foot loft suites (a first on the US rivers), two 450-square-foot deluxe suites and spacious veranda and interior suites. American Queen Steamboat Co. said the new vessel will deliver same high standards of service, entertainment and shore excursions that customers have come to expect from a line that also operates American Queen in the US heartland and American Empress in the Pacific Northwest. American Duchess fares include a pre-cruise hotel night at iconic boutique properties.

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29 Cruise Ships Receive Perfect CDC Scores in 2016

Holland America’s Eurodam continues its streak of perfect health ratings from the Centers for Disease Control in 2016, receiving a score of 100 for the 10th consecutive time. Four other Holland America ships, Westerdam, Veendam, Noordam and Maasdam, also earned perfect scores during the year, joining the 29 total vessels that passed the unannounced inspections with no black marks. The CDC inspects all ships that sail in or out of a U.S. port twice a year. Ships must earn a score of 86 or higher to pass. In 2015, 32 cruise ships received perfect scores. Celebrity earned the most perfect scores, with six ships receiving 100. Royal Caribbean had four ships with perfect scores; Carnival Cruises had three, as did Princess Cruises; Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruises had two ships that scored 100. Within the luxury category, Crystal Serenity, Oceania’s Regatta and Silverseas’ Silver Shadow all earned top scores.

Cuba Tourism Boom leads to Lack of Food
Tourism Industry News reports For a few years now, Cuba has been opening its economy. As a result, and thanks to the warmer relations with the US, the number of tourists coming to the country has been growing fast. After decades of isolation, Cuban tourism industry reported almost 3.5 million visitors in 2015. The record number of travelers however has caused a serious trouble for the locals, the lack of food. The goods that Cubans were used to have is not available any more. The food goes to the rising numbers of tourists that can afford to pay prices which the locals cannot. The reasons for the dire effects of Cuban tourism boom is, according to experts, not only the US embargo, but also the insufficient governmental planning. Fresh vegetable, for instance, are so expensive for Cubans, that it mostly goes to private restaurants serving the tourists. Thanks to the increased prices of staples like peppers and onions, as well as limes and pineapples are quite unaffordable for many. It is even hard to find any soda or beer in the shops since most of it is bought in bulk by the restaurants. The disparity between the prices of food and the salaries is astronomical. The revenues from Cuban tourism greatly benefits the growing private sector. However, most Cubans still work for the state-run companies. For them, buying a pound of onions and of tomatoes would take 10% of a standard government salary, which is about $25 a month. According to Juan Alejandro Triana, an economist at the University of Havana, the government has not invested sufficiently in the agriculture for a long time. The produce planned for 11 million people cannot feed the 3.5 million tourists as well.

US Considers Cellphones On Flights But No Calls 

The Washington Post reports the federal government on Thursday moved closer to allowing cellphone use during flights, but with a catch: Passengers won’t be able to use the devices to make calls. If approved, the new rules would mean consumers could use their data plans to surf the Web or send e-mails and texts once a plane reaches 10,000 feet but passengers could not make voice calls. Many of the details have yet to be worked out.

E-cigarette Causes Fire On American Airlines Flight
An e-cigarette has something new in common with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Both have smoked up airplanes. Last Thursday, an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Indianapolis was diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas, when “a passenger’s electronic cigarette in their possession malfunctioned and burst into flames. Thanks to the quick actions of our crew members, the fire was extinguished,” a spokesman for the airline said.added. The plane was an MD-80 and the airline says that none of the 137 passengers and 5 crew members were hurt. The passengers were put on another plane and the incident has been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Iconic Atlantis Resort Coming To Hawaii
China Oceanwide entered into a management agreement today with subsidiaries of Kerzner International Holdings Limited, a leading international developer and operator of destination resorts and ultra-luxury hotels, for a new, Atlantis resort in Ko Olina, a 642 acre development on Oahu beaches in Hawaii. This will be the first Atlantis resort in the United States, along with the brand’s flagship in Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm and the new icon in China, Atlantis, Sanya Hainan which will open in 2017, as well as The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences in Dubai.

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EU To Support Pilots With Mental Health Concerns
European aviation safety regulator EASA has published proposals to improve support to pilots who have mental health concerns, and increase checks before and during employment. The European Aviation Safety Agency proposals include access by pilots to mental health programe; a requirement for airlines to carry out psychological assessments of pilots before employment; and drug and alcohol testing after incidents. Random tests would also be carried out after pilots return to work.

Viking’s Mississippi River Plans Delayed

Previously plans To cruise the Mississippi River by European cruise giant Viking now appears uncertain. The cruise line with ships gliding down rivers in Europe, China and Egypt announced plans last year to launch a fleet of cruise ships on the Mississippi, traveling from New Orleans to St. Louis and occasionally St. Paul, by 2017. Earlier this year, Viking said it was pushing its move to the Mississippi to 2018. Viking has issued this statement: “We are actively working with our partners to launch on the Mississippi River, but at this point in time we do not have any details to share regarding product specifics or a launch timeline.”

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Vietnam: A Photographer’s Paradise

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Vietnam is a gorgeous country, an absolute paradise for photographers. Several award-winning photographers are based in Vietnam these days: Ehrin Macksey, Réhahn, Quinn Ryan Mattingly, plus many more. Its landscapes and cities speak to the heart and the eye in an inviting and unflinching way.

Willamette Intl Travel is proud to have sent countless of our clients to discover Vietnam for themselves. We can arrange travel for you and your family with knowledgeable guides, on eye-opening trips to temples, rice paddies and old world streets. Plus, who can resist a cooking class for spicy spring rolls in Old Saigon? Call us to find out more: 503-224-0180. 

Feel free to flip through the photo album: 

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For more eye-candy:

A bilingual photobook, Huế – The City of Crying Stones, was published last week in Paris and features 200 bw and color photos of Huế, Vietnam’s capital in the years from 1802 to 1945.

Also, check this article out on local street photography in Hanoi.

Thinking about a Spring getaway to Vietnam? February and March are some of the best months to travel to this unique and flavorful country. In Fall, too: the mid-autumn festival Tet is one you’ll be talking about for years to come. Call us up for a chat! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Why Laos should be on your bucket list this year

laos 2017 travel

laos-foodConsidering Laos this traveling season? Southeast Asia is really opening up these past few years, with countries like Bhutan, Burma and Laos in full bloom. Discover Laos on a connecting flight from Thailand or Vietnam!

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you’ll know that WIT Agent Wailana took a trip to Laos a while back. This country often gets overlooked with more popular neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam. But there’s a lot that Laos can offer the curious traveler.

Here are our top reasons to visit Laos in the next few months:

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The best lunch in Asia!

FOOD

Yes. The food is phenomenal, with fresh, tasty dishes with an optional spice kick. Steamed purple sticky rice, larb (marinated meat with herbs), uniquely spicy papaya salad, steamed fish in banana leaf, river weed (think seaweed except from the Mekong), and breaded pork wrapped around sugarcane. Plus let’s not forget the awesome food markets.

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Kuang Si Waterfalls

NATURE

Laos’ dense jungles and river remain largely unexplored, meaning that the air smells crystal clear. There’s something to be said about climbing a holy mountain above Luang Prabang, lush with trees and the heavy scent of flowers, and gazing over at the fog-smothered streets below.

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Temple and Market

RELAX

Laos is often described as more relaxing and peaceful than its bustling neighbors. Everything is unhurried here–the buses, the store hours–it’s a rural countryside with a laid-back vibe. Perfect for a tranquil getaway.

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Boats leaving for School

THE MEKONG

The life and blood of Laos. No trip to Laos is complete without a river cruise or at the very least a riverbank stroll along the Mekong. This is where people have fished, drawn water, and made their homes. Schoolchildren often head out from their villages on boats in the early morning for school.

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Popular Paintings on the Street

A Magical Home away from Home

And imagine this: end of the day, twilight, after a long day exploring the market and visiting waterfalls. The day’s heat is dimming. You duck into a little open-air cafe in Luang Prabang, next to fading French colonial buildings. The fans are spinning, you’ve a cool beer lao in hand, and your gaze reaches out over the calm and murky waters. The only sounds are the crickets and the rustlings of a few passerby. Take a breath, settle back, and linger.

Spiked your Interest? You can read more about Laos on our previous posts: Here, Here and Here

Our Agents love to share our travel knowledge with you. Call us at 503-224-0180 for more SE Asia info or email info@wittravel.com.

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Monastery Morning Ritual

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Agent Profile: Nancy Fowler

Galapagos 100

How did you get into travel?

I grew up in the country near the Oregon coast, on a dead end road, with few neighbors.  Books were my escape to exotic places. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I attended a business school for a travel and accounting course. My first job in a travel agency was in 1978, handwriting Pan Am tickets for their Hawaii tours.  Next up was a full time position, selling air tickets (only 3 fares –remember Continental’s Chickenfeed fare?) all done via the phone, as there weren’t computers yet.  Soon I was trusted to discuss Hawaii, Mexico, some cruises with clients.  My first work trip was Amtrak to San Francisco, followed by a trip to Hawaii.  I was hooked!

What’s your favorite trip/memories of travel?

I’ve been fortunate to have so many wonderful trips over the years, and there hasn’t been a destination that didn’t become my new favorite.  Call me fickle!  A travel consultant is ALWAYS on the job, so a favorite personal escape is Hawaii.  It is exotic, only 5 hours away, and very welcoming. Memories?  Galapagos and the crazy marine iguanas!  Snorkeling in Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos.  Holding a young wombat and rubbing her tummy. Driving in Western Australia while a lizard races me (and wins).  Watching cattle dogs work in New Zealand. A cooking class in Vietnam. Getting lost in Provence and missing our train to Paris. A walking tour in Regensburg while on a Xmas Markets cruise with my daughter. Visiting New Orleans post-Katrina.  Attending a party on the heli-pad of the Celebrity Eclipse.  Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage.

What’s still on your bucket list?  

Norwegian fjords in the winter,  Argentina, safari somewhere in Africa, Kangaroo Island, Arctic, Myanmar, Black Sea, Ireland, Molokai.   And if time,  return visits to Galapagos, Alaska, Australia, Scotland, Fiji, and Panama Canal.

What’s one tip you always tell your clients? 

Be sure to take your brain and your common sense on every trip, along with an open mind for impromptu new adventures!

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Emergency Case Study: Vietnam

This past weekend (Nov 9-11) Typhoon/Tropical Depression Haiyan passed from the East Sea (aka South China Sea) through Northeastern Vietnam and into mainland China. Many airports were forced to close and the cities of Danang and Hue had to manage without power. Some travelers were advised to evacuate, as in our case study below.

Willamette Intl Travel agent Nancy had organized a tour for travelers Arianne and Jason with V’Explore Tours, one of our preferred vendors in SE Asia. They had originally planned to travel from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh on Monday, but due to the storm were forced to fly on Saturday instead. The timeline that follows is based on time in Portland, Oregon (15 hours earlier than Vietnam time).

Friday Nov 8, AM: Nancy speaks with V’Explore manager Derrick Tran about the situation. Tran maintained in touch with the Vietnam offices so is aware of the emergency services on the ground. Chau, V’Explore’s general manager in the country, has already contacted clients and provided his 24/7-hour cell phone.

Friday, Nov 8, AM: Nancy contacts Jason and Arianne, asking them if they wanted to move their Ho Chi Minh flight to Saturday. The hotel already plans to move them to their sister hotel, away from the beach. She assures them that the hotel staff is quite capable at preparing for storms, but advises them that it may be better to leave central Vietnam earlier, as the typhoon is quite large.

Friday, Nov 8, PM: Derrick Tran speaks with Jason and Arianne, and recaps the evacuation operation for Saturday to Nancy.

Saturday, Nov 9, AM: V’Explore tours arranges emergency transfers to Hue that evening, to catch a flight to Ho Chi Minh City at 6pm. Chau organizes two extra nights at a hotel in the city. The staff charges the cost of the flight and the hotel to the clients’ card. The emergency transfer evacuation from Hoi An to Hue is complimentary from V’Explore. After their flight on Saturday, both Danang and Hue airports close.

Monday, Nov 11, AM: Since the clients had purchased travel insurance from Nancy before their departure, Nancy files a claim upon their behalf to cover the cost of the extra hotel nights and the flight. Any unexpected expenditures are currently being worked out.

By Monday, Nov 11, many tours had recommenced and by Tuesday status quo had returned to Vietnam. We’d like to thank all of our fantastic vendors and agents who worked hard to manage the safety and comfort of our travelers!

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